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Maintenance Funding Bill Would Preserve Nation's Historic Sites

Ebey's Landing on Whidbey Island, Wash., is one of more than 400 historic sites preserved by the National Park Service. (Ashlyn Gehrett/Flickr)
Ebey's Landing on Whidbey Island, Wash., is one of more than 400 historic sites preserved by the National Park Service. (Ashlyn Gehrett/Flickr)
November 12, 2018

SEATTLE – Groups across the country are calling on Congress to address maintenance costs in national parks in order to save some of America's most historic places.

While the National Park Service oversees iconic landscapes such as Mount Rainier National Park, it also preserves historic sites and buildings.

They include the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Seattle and Ebey's Landing, a site in the Puget Sound preserved since European settlement in the 1850s.

Chris Moore, executive director of Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, says without proper stewardship, unique places like these won't last.

"The worst case scenario is that you begin to lose components of our parks that are vital for telling the story about that park and, in some cases, telling the story of certain periods or certain events in the nation's history," he states.

Moore is hopeful a bill known as the Restore Our Parks Act can address this issue. The bill has passed through a key U.S. Senate committee, and a House panel approved a similar bill.

The legislation would nearly cut in half the country's $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog over the next five years, with royalties from energy development on federal lands.

More than 400 places such as the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall and Native American cultural sites have been designated as national parks and historic monuments in the past 100 years.

Tom Cassidy, vice president for government relations with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says 3,000 groups from around the country have called upon Congress to dedicate funding to maintenance.

He says the Restore Our Parks bill has support from Republicans, Democrats and the Trump administration.

"That type of alliance of interests to protect our public lands is rare and it's a special thing and is why we want to try to get this legislation across the finish line before the end of the year," he stresses.

Moore also notes preserving parks makes economic sense, especially for nearby communities.

According to the National Park Service, visitors spent more than $500 million in local gateway communities in the Evergreen State in 2017.

"It has a real catalytic effect, a multiplier effect for our communities that surround these parks in terms of visitorship, in terms of tourism and in terms of their ability to take care of their own historic resources as well," he stresses.

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

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA