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Lawmakers to Consider Bill to Fund National Park Maintenance

The National Park Service says Gateway Arch National Park needs almost $25 million in repairs.(National Park Service)
The National Park Service says Gateway Arch National Park needs almost $25 million in repairs.(National Park Service)
June 25, 2019

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Hope is on the horizon to fix up our national parks, which have compiled almost $12 billion in deferred maintenance. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives' Committee on Natural Resources will discuss a bill to fund about half the repairs.

The money would take care of broken bathrooms, eroding trails, crumbling roads and outdated campgrounds at park sites across the country, including six in Missouri.

Independence Mayor Ellen Weir recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby in favor of the bills.

"Tourism is a big business in Missouri, with people traveling to our state to visit. It's very important to our state economy,” Weir said.

In 2018, 3.6 million people visited national park lands in Missouri, spending $276 million in the region. Weir said places such as the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site in Independence should be kept in tip-top shape.

"We want to make sure when people come to our city to visit these historic sites and parks that they are in good repair, that they are open to the public and that people have a safe and easy way to access them,” she said.

Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis needs almost $25 million in improvements. Other sites with the greatest needs include the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and Wilson's Creek National Battlefield.

Phil Francis, who chairs The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, said the parks not only tell the nation's story and give families a place to unwind, they also drive economies nationwide.

"They're economic engines, producing $39 billion or so worth of economic impact for only a $3 billion investment each year,” Francis said. “And they're places that 330 million people each year visit. "

A recent poll by The Pew Charitable Trusts found 75% of respondents supported a bill to provide $6.5 billion for national park repairs, money that would come from fees on offshore oil and gas drilling. The bill's cosponsors from Missouri include Sen. Roy Blunt and Reps. Emmanuel Cleaver, William Lacy Clay, Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler.

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

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MO