The Great American Outdoors Act is providing crucial funding – up to $6.65 billion over five years – to fix our national parks’ crumbling roads, decaying buildings, outdated water systems and many more repair needs.
In the summer of 2020, Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation that is providing crucial funding to repair aging infrastructure in America’s more than 400 national park sites, dedicating up to $6.65 billion over five years. Additionally, the bill provides $900 million per year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund to conserve more land in and around our national parks and to support recreational facilities in communities across the nation, increasing access to outdoor spaces for all.
The 2020 passage of the Great American Outdoors Act established the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund, setting aside up to $6.65 BILLION to address critical repair needs…See more ›
For two decades, NPCA, park advocates, partners, businesses and elected officials have worked together to push Congress to make national parks and America’s legacy a priority. People across the country flew to DC to meet with their elected officials, made phone calls, attended meetings, and wrote to their newspapers about the need to fix our parks. Their voices were heard, and their perseverance paid off.
The successes of the Great American Outdoors Act are far-reaching, stretching from Acadia to Yellowstone, and covering a wide range of projects from crumbling roads and buildings to aging campgrounds and bathrooms. Now, because of these investments, visitors will have even better experiences at these incredible places.
Examples of Great American Outdoors Act projects:
- Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail is one of the top destinations at Cuyahoga Valley, serving 1.5 million visitors each year. But increasingly intense storms caused by climate change have worsened runoff, flooding and erosion, forcing emergency trail closures and harming vegetation and water quality.
Through a $24.9 million investment, Great American Outdoors Act funding will stabilize the riverbank along the towpath by clearing and rebuilding the banks, planting new native vegetation to stabilize the soil, and remediating the construction site and equipment access routes. The repairs will reduce annual operation and maintenance costs, saving park staff from further major rehabilitation work for the next 40 years. By reducing erosion, water quality and aquatic habitat will improve, and the trail’s many visitors will enjoy lasting benefits.
- Alcatraz Island, California
Alcatraz Island is one of the most visited sites in San Francisco, and everyone must access the island via its wharf. Built in the middle of a cold bay with strong currents and harsh weather conditions, the wharf’s historic piles, beams and slabs are in fair to poor condition with varying degrees of damage. When it was built, nobody imagined that it would one day support millions of visitors. Builders also didn’t consider — in a region known for its earthquakes — that the wharf would need seismic strengthening.
Through a $36 million investment in Great American Outdoors Act funding, the National Park Service will carry out its first major rehabilitation of the wharf since it acquired the property in 1972. Workers will repair historic steel-cased concrete piles, beams and slabs; structural upgrades will improve the wharf’s resistance to earthquakes. The work will improve public safety, historic preservation efforts and the overall visitor experience.
- Freedom Riders National Monument, Alabama
In 1961, a mob of white segregationists in Anniston, Alabama, attacked a bus of Freedom Riders — civil rights activists protesting racial discrimination in the South. Passengers sat aboard the bus as the mob slashed tires, broke windows and later fire-bombed the bus just outside of town. Newspapers printed images of the violence, spurring the federal government to ban segregation on interstate buses.
In 2017, President Obama designated the Greyhound bus depot where the initial attack occurred as the Freedom Riders National Monument. The depot — a small brick building on a commercial strip that hasn’t changed much since the 1960s — was open to visitors on weekends for a few months in 2021, but the park lacked the funding to continue staffing the site. There are currently no on-site visitor services. The nearby Chamber of Commerce offers an informational kiosk that looks like a bus. At the depot, visitors can peer in the windows, see a mural and listen to a five-minute audio clip from one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, but there is no park ranger to explain the importance of the events that took place and not much greenery or shade to protect visitors from the Alabama heat.
A $7.45 million investment of Great American Outdoors Act funding will rehabilitate the depot, restoring it to the way it looked in 1961. Next door, a separate building with a historic mural will be renovated to provide visitor services. In both buildings, workers will preserve historic features and rehabilitate mechanical, electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems. The funding will protect these historic buildings and finally make them accessible to the public, allowing visitors to talk to interpreters, purchase books, use the restroom, stamp their passport books and learn about the area’s history of segregation and activism.
On the two-year anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, parks around the country are seeing big, tangible improvements as a result of this historic bipartisan victory.See more ›
The Great American Outdoors act will continue to address repair projects in our parks for a few more year, but the current funding won’t be able to repair every broken bathroom, crumbling trail or outdated visitor center.
National park infrastructure repairs and maintenance needs are funded through multiple funding sources including the operation and construction budgets determined annually by Congress through the appropriations process and guaranteed funding from the Highway Trust Fund through transportation bills. However, these funding streams have been insufficient. Years of underfunding have taken a toll on our national parks, as the backlog of repair needs has now reached nearly $22 billion. And this estimate doesn’t account for unforeseen damage our parks will continue to deal with as a result of climate change like the devastating flooding at Yellowstone and raging wildfires at Yosemite.
Through Congressional investments we’ve made big strides to address our parks’ deferred maintenance problems, but it’s clear that our parks need more support. We call on Congress to extend the funding through the Great American Outdoors Act and fix more parks.
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