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Bill Could Fund Backlog of Park Repairs

Gateway National Recreation Area has $675 million of deferred maintenance projects. (U.S. National Park Service)
Gateway National Recreation Area has $675 million of deferred maintenance projects. (U.S. National Park Service)
November 12, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. – National parks and monuments have postponed maintenance for years and it's catching up with them, but there may be help on the way.

More than 400 places have been designated as national parks and historic monuments in the past 100 years.

But without a sustained and reliable source of funding to take care of them, the backlog of needed repairs has grown to almost $12 billion.

Erin Tobin, vice president for Policy and Preservation at the Preservation League of New York State, points out that some of those locations are right here in the Empire State.

"The Gateway National Recreation Area has $676 million of deferred maintenance projects,” she says. “There's also the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, which has had tremendous rehabilitation needs for decades."

Congress has taken notice. A bill called the Restore Our Parks Act, which would direct funds to the maintenance backlog, has cleared committees in the U.S. House and Senate.

According to Tom Cassidy, vice president of Government Relations and Policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the law would create a fund of $6.5 billion over five years, financed by royalties from energy development on federal lands.

And it has bipartisan support.

"They still need to go to the floors of both bodies and then sign it into law, but we are optimistic that we can get this done in the lame duck session of Congress that will end before Christmas," he states.

Cassidy adds the act would preserve history, provide continued safe access to recreation, create new jobs and protect local economies that depend on park visitors.

Almost 3,000 local, state and national groups have called on Congress to take action. And as Tobin notes, it makes good economic sense, too.

"Creating a reliable funding stream for ongoing maintenance will save the federal government a lot of money in the long run because they won't have to play catch-up in the way that they need to right now," she points out.

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

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY