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Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a twofold problem.

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MN National Parks Need Fixing; Will Congress Act?

The repair costs to update aging infrastructure at Minnesota's national park sites, including Voyageurs, is estimated at $17 million. (wildernessinquiry.org)
The repair costs to update aging infrastructure at Minnesota's national park sites, including Voyageurs, is estimated at $17 million. (wildernessinquiry.org)
August 15, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Filling potholes, fixing restrooms, repairing visitor centers, maintaining trails and campgrounds - that's just a sampling of improvements that could be made if Congress can pass the "Restore Our Parks Act."

A nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog extends across more than 400 sites managed by the National Park Service. In Minnesota alone, said Terry Mattson, president and chief executive of Visit Saint Paul/RiverCentre, the national parks need $17 million in infrastructure upgrades.

"Many of these parks and facility systems are 50 to 70 years old and they need updating," Mattson said. "The parks are tremendously popular; there's been record visitation and, of course, that causes wear and tear on the resources."

The bipartisan bill making its way through the U.S. House and Senate would allocate revenues the government already receives from energy development to fund park repairs. If approved by Congress, the legislation would provide $6.5 billion over a five-year period.

Yaron Miller, an officer with The Pew Charitable Trust's "Restore Americas Parks" campaign, said the repair list gets longer with each passing year.

"These repairs include deteriorating historic buildings, unsafe roads, eroding trails, outdated campgrounds and broken bathrooms, crumbling monuments and degraded water, sewer and electrical systems," Miller said.

In Minnesota, Mattson said, many communities rely on the revenue from visitors to the parks. He added that taking parks for granted is taking its toll.

"It might not be as 'sexy' to take care of what you have," he said, "but it's very, very important and critical to the future of this entire system."

It's estimated that visitors spent nearly $20 million at Minnesota's Voyageurs National Park in 2016.

The Restore Our Parks Act is online at congress.gov.

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

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN