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WA Park Cleanup Could Be ‘Economic Stimulus’

December 1, 2008

Port Angeles, WA – Exactly one year ago, the incredible wind and rainstorms now known as the "Great Coastal Gale of 2007" hit Washington and Oregon, causing widespread floods, power outages and deaths. Seven Washington counties were declared federal disaster areas.

Even today, the cleanup continues in many areas; and at Olympic National Park, the disaster only added to the maintenance backlog of past years. Advocates for the National Park system are suggesting to Congress that the maintenance projects awaiting attention, here and across the country, could be used to put more people to work.

Craig Obey, vice-president for government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), says there's already a precedent for this type of effort, in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

"When you look back in history, parks have played an enormous role in helping us through economic crises. When you go back to the CCC days, the Great Depression, millions of people were put to work in parks."

The NPCA estimates there's enough work to hire up to 7,000 people nationwide. By Park Service estimates, there's about $8 billion worth of work to be done. The price tag for Mount Rainier National Park alone is $100 million, half of it for road repair.

"The parks have been suffering from a lack of investment for years. They really are a poster child for the lack of infrastructure investment over time in this country."

The U.S. Interior Department says it is making headway on the backlog, citing expenditures of almost $4 billion on improvements in the past three years. However, it is estimated that most parks get by with about two-thirds of the budgets that they need for basic upkeep, making it difficult to improve aging roads and structures.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA