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Congress Urged to Fund National Park Repairs

In 2017, the deferred-maintenance needs at Statue of Liberty National Monument totaled $166.4 million. (MonicaVolpin/Pixabay)
In 2017, the deferred-maintenance needs at Statue of Liberty National Monument totaled $166.4 million. (MonicaVolpin/Pixabay)
May 1, 2019

NEW YORK - National parks in New York and around the country are jeopardized by a $12 billion backlog of deferred repairs, but legislation now in Congress could make a difference.

National parks not only provide recreation for millions of Americans but also preserve national heritage and boost local and state economies. Marcia Argust, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' Restore America's Parks project, said national park sites in New York draw more than 19 million visitors a year who spend more than $700 million in local communities, supporting 8,000 jobs. She said the deferred maintenance in New York alone totals more than $800 million.

"If parks are not taken care of, if the resources are degraded, if they're not safe, if those visitors don't come," she said, "then the local communities and the state itself is going to take an economic hit."

Bills introduced in the U.S. a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/500" target="parent">Senate and House would provide up to $6.5 billion over five years to help address the parks' deferred maintenance. Argust said they have bipartisan support, with 34 cosponsors in the Senate and 175 in the House.

Last year, the National Park Service spent more than $670 million on the backlog of projects, but the estimate of total deferred maintenance costs still rose by $300 million. Argust said consistent funding for repairs is needed.

"That way, they can take on some of the more complicated and more expensive maintenance projects that have been in the wings for a number of years."

Argust said national parks have the same needs as small cities or towns.

"They have roads, they have buildings, they have visitor amenities and utility systems that need to be maintained and updated," she said, "and that's an important investment that needs to be made by Congress."

An analysis commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that addressing the backlog of repairs at national parks would create or support more than 100,000 jobs nationally.

Texts are available online for the Senate and House bills. The Pew research is at pewtrusts.org.

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

Andrea Sears/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - NY