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Pressure on Congress to Fund Nat'l. Park Maintenance Backlog

National park sites in Texas, including Big Bend, get five million visitors annually. Visitor spending tops $300 million in local communities each year, which generates more than 4,300 jobs. (Good Free Photos)
National park sites in Texas, including Big Bend, get five million visitors annually. Visitor spending tops $300 million in local communities each year, which generates more than 4,300 jobs. (Good Free Photos)
November 19, 2018

ALPINE, Texas – National Park Service sites in Texas need more than $167 million in deferred repairs, with Big Bend National Park in need of over $100 million.

The Restore Our Parks Act would tap fees paid by oil and gas companies operating on public lands to cover just over half of the more than $11 billion national backlog.

Restore Our Parks legislation has cleared committee in both the U.S. House and Senate, but has not gotten a floor vote.

Chris Ruggia is the tourism director for the city of Alpine, about two hours outside of Big Bend.

"Big Bend National Park is hugely important to this entire region,” he stresses. “Tourism is a primary if not the primary industry for this region and the national park is the lynchpin for all of that."

Ruggia adds Big Bend is one of the only ways most people can experience the area's vast desert-mountain landscape, because most of the region's land is privately owned.

National park sites in Texas receive 5 million visitors annually, and they spend more than $300 million in communities and generate 4,300 jobs each year.

Marcia Argust, project director for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Restore Americas Parks Campaign, says the bill 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 states.

More than 90 percent of respondents in a recent Pew 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 maintenance and repair costs at national parks.

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

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX