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For Infrastructure Week, Groups Urge Investment in National Parks

Crater Lake National Park and other parks across the country are in need of maintenance to stay safe for visitors. (alans1948/Flickr)
Crater Lake National Park and other parks across the country are in need of maintenance to stay safe for visitors. (alans1948/Flickr)
May 14, 2018

BEND, Ore. — It's Infrastructure Week, and groups with diverse interests are calling on Congress to invest in lands all Americans share: national parks.

The National Park Service estimates the backlog of maintenance costs is well over $11 billion, including more than $115 million in Oregon. It's not just trails and roads crumbling in these parks. Experts say sewage systems, water lines, electrical systems and more need attention too.

Damian Syrnyk, a senior planner for the City of Bend Growth Management Department, said nearby national parks provide a big boost to Bend's tourism economy, but they need help.

"One of the benefits of having this Infrastructure Week is now we can talk about things that people don't think about every day because they don't see it,” Syrnyk said; “like our national parks, like the Crater Lakes and the John Day Fossil Beds, and what they need so that they can be safe places for people to visit and enjoy."

More than 3,000 - including elected officials, veterans groups, business associations and conservation organizations - are asking for dedicated annual funding to address maintenance needs. According to a study commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2017, resolving the backlog would create or support more than 110,000 jobs, including more than 1,000 in Oregon.

More than 180 infrastructure groups, made up of architects, electricians, engineers and construction workers, have signed a letter to Congress asking for investments in national parks so their members can go to work. Marcia Argust, director of Pew's "Restore America's Parks" project, said the benefits to well-maintained parks are numerous.

"Investing in parks preserves our nation's history, it protects recreation opportunities and it creates jobs,” she said. “Any plan to address national infrastructure needs must include provisions to address the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog facing our national parks."

Syrnyk agreed that national parks are preserving some of Oregon's most beautiful landscapes.

"Crater Lake is a good example of that,” he said. “It's very unique. It's not something you can go to another state to observe. You need to come to Oregon to see Crater Lake."

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR