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Congress Urged to Fully Fund Maintenance of National Parks

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The seawall protecting the Statue of Liberty is among the National Park Service sites in need of repair. (National Park Service)
The seawall protecting the Statue of Liberty is among the National Park Service sites in need of repair. (National Park Service)
 By Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY - Producer, Contact
May 14, 2018

ALBANY, N.Y. — As part of National Infrastructure Week, advocates are calling on Congress to fully fund maintenance at national parks here in New York and across the country.

There are two dozen National Park Service sites in the Empire State, drawing more than 19 million visitors a year and generating more than $700 million in local spending in 2017 alone. But years of deferred maintenance have left a backlog of needed repairs that was estimated at $11.6 billion for all parks nationally as of 2017.

According to Mary Kay Vrba, president of Dutchess County Tourism, from Niagara Falls to the Statue of Liberty, maintaining national parks in New York means preserving not only their economic value but critical pieces of our national heritage as well.

"This history that's here just really defines us on who we are and who we want to become,” Vrba said. “And it's so important to keep these structures in working conditions and to protect our national treasures."

Pew Charitable Trusts has launched a Restore America's Parks Campaign, calling on Congress to preserve the nation's history, protect local economies and create jobs by fixing the nation's parks.

Marcia Argust, director of the campaign, said more than 180 infrastructure groups, including architects, electricians, engineers and construction workers, have signed on to a letter calling for Congress to put their members to work on maintenance and repairs.

"We're talking about historic structures, buildings, roads, bridges, trails, campgrounds, waterfronts, recreation facilities,” Argust said.

A Pew-commissioned analysis found that addressing the maintenance backlog facing the National Park Service would create or support more than 9,800 jobs in New York State alone.

Vrba pointed out that Dutchess County is home to the estate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who brought the country through the Great Depression and World War II, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who played a key role in development of the universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"It's so relevant today to what's going on in our country that we need to see where we were,” Vrba said; “and if we don't continue to maintain and keep these places open, all that valuable knowledge is going to be lost."

Congressional lawmakers are considering several bills to address deferred maintenance in the national parks.

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

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