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American Experience at Stake?

In 2017, 232,00 people visited the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. (Robert Lawton/Flickr)
In 2017, 232,00 people visited the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. (Robert Lawton/Flickr)
November 19, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Time is short in this session of Congress, and conservation and tourism groups are hoping for a vote on a bill to address the massive maintenance backlog in the national parks.

The Restore Our Parks Act is a bipartisan proposal to direct up to $6.5 billion of revenue from offshore oil and gas royalties to fix crumbling roads and buildings, plus electrical and wastewater systems at the parks.

Lisa Clemmons Stott is executive director of Downtown Springfield, Inc., which is where she says more than 200,000 people come every year to visit Abraham Lincoln’s original home.

"The national parks and the national sites are a very important part of our national heritage,” she states. “There are definitely specific needs.

“The Lincoln Home site, for example, there are two major homes that need massive renovations to be open to the public, at a cost of several million dollars."

Illinois' national park sites generate $20 million for the state's economy, but they need about $16 million in repairs.

Committees in both the U.S. House and Senate have passed versions of the proposal, but they need a floor vote in each chamber.

Marcia Argust, project director of Pew’s Restore Americas Parks Campaign, says the proposal has strong bipartisan support, but lawmakers will have to act soon, as the current Congress has a limited number of business days before it adjourns for the year.

She says the measure also has strong public support.

"Many park facilities and resources are over 100 years old, and over the past few years, you know, nearly 3,000 organizations across the nation have urged Congress to respond to this problem and fix our parks," she points out.

More than 90 percent of respondents in a recent Pew Charitable Trusts’ survey said it's important to maintain trails, roads, historic buildings, campgrounds and other park infrastructure.

More than three in four said they support using fees that oil and gas companies pay to cover these maintenance and repair costs.

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

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL