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NPCA Report: Ft. Jefferson Facelift Could Mean Jobs for Floridians

December 18, 2008

Saving our national parks could help save the economy, a National Parks Conservation Association(NPCA) report released Thursday predicts. The NPCA details $2.5 billion of ready-to-go restoration projects that could be included in the federal economic stimulus package, plus a proposal to start a job corps dedicated to serving the parks.

On the wish list for Florida is $10 million to continue the restoration of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, which has been ravaged by hurricanes and scouring seawater. Construction began on the fort in 1846, and it became one of the largest brick structures ever built in America. The fort was used in the Civil War, and served as a federal prison after the war. One of its most famous residents was Dr. Samuel Mudd, the doctor accused of aiding and abetting John Wilkes Booth by setting his broken leg after he had assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Although it is now a natural preserve and recreation site, it is a piece of Florida's cultural heritage that must be preserved, according to John Adornato, regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association.

"But it is crumbling, it will continue to fall into disrepair and end up being even more costly. We can really have an effect on one of our treasured historic landmarks."

Critics say parks projects are not a priority during times of economic crisis, but Adornato argues investment in these projects will provide immediate economic return including providing jobs for nearly 60,000 people. He cites a recent study that indicates that every dollar spent on parks restoration returns four dollars in benefits to the local economy.

The NPCA is asking the federal government to start a National Parks Service Corps and hire 10,000 young people and retirees to reinvigorate the parks, Adornato adds. He explains the proposal could be initiated quickly by expanding AmeriCorps, a program currently hiring young people for service projects across the nation.

Adornato says the National Parks Service Corps would be dedicated to improving the parks and preserving our heritage for future generations.

"Our parks are our legacy to our children and grandchildren. To be a part of ensuring their sustainability, while also providing jobs, is a great solution."

Gina Presson/Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL