New Study Finds Funding Shortfalls at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Impact Upkeep of National Cemetery for United States Veterans

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   October 21, 2008
Contact:   Emily Jones, Program Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, Phone: 865.329.2424, ext. 26


New Study Finds Funding Shortfalls at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Impact Upkeep of National Cemetery for United States Veterans

Park Commemorates Bicentennial; Study Finds Additional Funding is Needed to Maintain Cemetery Grounds and Repair Historic Park Structures

Greeneville, Tenn.-On the eve of the presidential election, the nation’s leading voice for the national parks, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today released an assessment of the Andrew Johnson National Historical Site-the home and burial site of the nation’s 17th president, and one of only two active burial sites operated by the National Park Service for U.S. veterans and their families. The assessment found that additional funding is needed to repair historic structures, maintain cemetery grounds, and improve visitor safety and accessibility for U.S. veterans.

 “As we commemorate the bicentennial of President Andrew Johnson’s birth, we must ensure that the National Park Service has the necessary resources to maintain the Homestead and our national cemetery, which is a final resting place for thousands of United States veterans,” said Emily Jones, NPCA program manager in Knoxville.  

According to the assessment by NPCA’s Center for the State of the Parks, the cultural resources of Andrew Johnson National Historic Site are in good condition, scoring an overall 83 out of 100 points-the highest overall cultural resources score for any park assessed by NPCA to date. A system-wide review of nearly 60 national parks indicates the national average for the condition of cultural resources is 61. Despite the high score achieved by the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, the report finds that additional funding and staffing is needed for basic maintenance and to complete a host of rehabilitation projects.

For example, additional maintenance staff is needed to mow grass surrounding the more than 1,800 headstones and to place headstones at new burials for 40 to 60 veterans and dependents each year. Furthermore, funds are needed to repair the National Cemetery lodge’s slate roof, install cemetery handrails, and rehabilitate the wooden porches at the Andrew Johnson Early Home. Without repair, these are safety hazards to visitors and staff.

“The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, like many of our national parks, suffers from chronic funding shortfalls, which limits the interpretation of our American heritage and preservation of one of our national treasures,” said Jones. “With only eight years until the National Park Service centennial, we must ensure our national parks are preserved in perpetuity for our children and grandchildren.”

Park Service staff have recently completed a number of important repair and rehabilitation projects, including replacing the roofs on the Andrew Johnson Homestead and his Early Home, replacing the porch deck at the Homestead, rehabilitating sidewalks in the national cemetery, and straightening headstones in the cemetery. However, funding is needed to complete the rehabilitation of the 100-year-old wall surrounding the cemetery and to replace the porch ceiling at the Homestead. These structures need to be repaired because age has caused cracking and drainage problems, and without repair they pose a risk to park visitors.

Report findings indicate that increased operational costs, increased fuel, natural gas, and electricity costs, and increases in cost of living adjustments have prevented the park from being able to provide any increased level of visitor services. NPCA is encouraging Congress and the next Administration to increase federal funding for the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site and all national parks.

The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville, Tennessee, was established to commemorate the life of Andrew Johnson, the 19th-century politician who assumed presidency of the United States in 1865 after President Lincoln’s assassination. The site includes a museum and visitor center, Andrew Johnson’s Early Home, the Andrew Johnson Homestead, and an active national cemetery-the final resting place for Johnson, his family, and thousands of U.S. veterans. Each year, about 50,000 people visit the site to learn more about his life and the role he played in shaping the nation’s future.

The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association launched the landmark Center for State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the resource conditions of national parks across the country. To view a copy of the full report, and take action to help protect the park, please click here. To download park photos, click here.

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