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Groups Call for Action on Nat'l Park Maintenance Backlog

Mile marker zero marks the start of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which has a significant backlog of maintenance needs. (Bonnachoven/Wikimedia Commons)
Mile marker zero marks the start of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which has a significant backlog of maintenance needs. (Bonnachoven/Wikimedia Commons)
November 19, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — With the end of the year not so far off on the horizon, time is running out for Congress to act on a bill that conservation and tourism groups hope will address the massive maintenance backlog at national parks.

The Restore Our Parks Act is a bipartisan proposal to direct up to $6.5 billion in revenue from offshore oil and gas royalties to fix crumbling roads and buildings, in addition to electrical and wastewater systems at the parks. Marcia Argust, project director with The Pew Charitable Trusts, said parks such as Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park are crucial to the state's tourist economy.

"Maryland welcomes over 6.5 million visitors each year to its national park units,” Argust said. “Those visitors spend almost $220 million in local communities and generate over 2,800 jobs."

She said legislation has passed committees in both the U.S. House and the Senate, but it needs a floor vote in each house - ideally before the end of the year.

A recent study estimated addressing the estimated $12 billion maintenance backlog could lead to the creation of 110,000 jobs nationwide. Though there are many competing interests vying for what remains of this Congress’ time, Argust said she remains hopeful the measure will pass because of its strong bipartisan and public support.

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

An analysis by the National Park Service showed visitors to parks in Maryland spent more than $223 million last year. Nationwide, visitors spent $18 billion, supporting more than 300,000 jobs and generating $35 billion in economic activity.

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

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MD