WINCHESTER, Va. – The aging national parks are in need of repairs and maintenance, and a bill to fund that work is being discussed today in the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.
The bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act would establish the National Park Service and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund, and start to reduce the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog. The 19 national park sites in Virginia need more than $219 million, for projects in places such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park.
Sally Hurlbert, a management specialist at Shenandoah, said the park needs $88 million to rebuild deteriorating rock walls and infrastructure.
“We have masonry structures that are underneath Skyline Drive that are part of the drainage system, and so they’re very important for getting water off the road when we have rainstorms and melting snowstorms,” she said. “So, those rock structures need to be rebuilt.”
Shenandoah saw 1.3 million visitors in 2018, according to the National Park Service. This fiscal year, Hurlbert said, the park has budgeted $580,000 to restore and maintain trails and $200,000 to rehabilitate roads and campsites. She said the rock walls along Shendandoah’s roads and overlooks also need constant upkeep. Many are 80 years old, and now are crumbling and falling apart.
Hurlbert said people can help fund maintenance at Shenandoah simply by coming to the park and visiting.
“When you come onto Skyline Drive and you pay your entrance fee to get into the park, 80% of that money stays in Shenandoah National Park to help us partly with our deferred maintenance,” she said. “Because of that 80%, we have to spend 55% of that on deferred maintenance.”
Most Americans also want the parks properly funded. Late last year, a poll by The Pew Charitable Trusts showed more than 75% of Americans favor allocating funding to fix the national parks. The Trump administration also has expressed support for the Restore Our Parks Act.
The Pew poll results are online at pewtrusts.org, the Restore Our Parks Act is at congress.gov, and NPS maintenance backlog info is at nps.gov.