A way forward for national park maintenance

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 27, 2018

By Rep. Virginia Foxx

Americans have always loved open spaces, beautiful scenery and tranquil places to visit and we have created national parks, forests, conservation lands and recreation areas for the enjoyment of all which indicates how important these values are to our national heritage.  Residents of the Fifth District are especially proud to have the Blue Ridge Parkway and other wonderful places close to home.

Unfortunately, those who have visited a national park recently have probably noticed many buildings and facilities in a state of disrepair.  Many of the facilities at our national parks were built in the 1930s and have long since surpassed their intended life cycle. As they age, they require more and more maintenance. In recent years, the National Park Service has been unable to keep up with the massive amount of maintenance needed. Now the agency has an enormous backlog of deferred maintenance projects, recently estimated to be in excess of $11.6 billion. Our cherished parks should be maintained and preserved, and it is past time for Congress to take action on this important issue.

This is especially true because national parks are not only beautiful places to visit, but also important economic drivers for surrounding communities. According to a 2016 report by the National Park Service, the Blue Ridge Parkway had a cumulative annual economic impact of over $1.3 million, supporting over 15,000 jobs in communities along the Parkway. When our parks are neglected, damage is done to treasured national assets and to local economies supported by park tourism as well.

Congress must address the underlying factors of these unresolved issues facing the National Park Service. The U.S. House of Representatives has an opportunity to address restoring our parks by considering H.R. 2584, the National Park Service Legacy Act. As a proud cosponsor of this bill, I strongly support this innovative approach for long-term park maintenance and repair.

The National Park Service Legacy Act establishes the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to be specifically used for repair and deferred maintenance of national park facilities. Funds will be collected from a specified amount of federal mineral revenues and will then be used to address high-priority deferred maintenance projects such as repairing roads and buildings. This approach provides additional funding separate from the annual appropriations process and will enable the National Park Service to reduce its backlog and keep our parks well maintained.

It is important that Congress take action to ensure our national parks are enjoyed for generations to come. As representative of the 5th District, I will to continue stand behind national parks and North Carolina jobs and encourage my colleagues in the House to support the National Park Service Legacy Act.