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Billions in Maintenance Needed at National Parks

More than $200 million in maintenance repairs are needed in Nevada's national park sites. (Lake Mead/Flickr)
More than $200 million in maintenance repairs are needed in Nevada's national park sites. (Lake Mead/Flickr)
August 20, 2018

LAS VEGAS – Places such as Nevada's Lake Mead, Death Valley and Great Basin are beloved American destinations for visitors, but sites administered by the National Park Service also face an $11.6 billion backlog in maintenance issues.

Now, there's growing bipartisan support to fix the national parks.

The spending backlog includes more than $200 million in maintenance needs in Nevada park sites alone.

Yaron Miller, an officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore America's Parks project, says the problems threaten visitor access and safety.

"These repairs include deteriorating historic buildings, unsafe roads, eroding trails, outdated campgrounds and broken bathrooms, crumbling monuments and degraded water, sewer and electrical systems," he points out.

A bipartisan group of senators this summer introduced the Restore Our Parks Act. It proposes to spend $6.5 billion over five years to make some of the most critical repairs in the parks.

Lawmakers say national parks are important not only to the nation's identity but to its economy.

Nevada's National Park Service sites last year brought more than $260 million in visitor spending to the state and supported more than 3,000 jobs.

But Alan O'Neill, former superintendent of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, fears maintenance issues are impacting tourist experiences in Nevada.

For example, he says as Lake Mead's water levels drop, boating infrastructure needs constant updating.

"Some of these boat launching ramps are now half a mile, two-thirds of a mile away from where they originally were when I was there, so how do you replace that?” he raises. “How do you keep up with that?"

The Senate bill to provide funding for national park repairs is currently under committee review. A similar bill is moving forward in the House of Representatives.

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

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - NV