A historic park funding bill will dedicate $6.5 billion over five years to priority projects in the National Park Service’s nearly $12 billion backlog of needed repair work.

On July 22, 2020, Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation that will dedicate $1.3 billion per year for five years to deferred maintenance projects in the National Park Service’s nearly $12 billion backlog of needed repair work. President Trump signed the bill into law on August 4, 2020.

NPCA and thousands of advocates worked for 20 years to secure this support, leading the way to this landmark victory.

Background

The National Park System is second only to the Department of Defense in the amount of infrastructure it manages, and maintaining and repairing that infrastructure requires resources — staff and materials that the National Park Service needs from Congress.

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Our Parks Badly Need Repairs

Our national parks, from the Grand Canyon to Gettysburg, need billions of dollars in repairs. Congress and the president must work together to fix our parks and help the local…

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Due to the long-term underinvestment in parks by Congress, the infrastructure repair backlog comprised of park roads, bridges, trails, historic structures, campgrounds and other facilities has grown to more than $11 billion. Over half of the projects on the infrastructure repair backlog list are park road projects, such as the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone National Park.

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.

Examples of national park infrastructure needs:

  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio): Paved roads and bridges comprise about $2 million of the parks deferred maintenance such as the road and bridge at Brandywine Falls.

  • Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado): Over $6 million is needed to rehabilitate historic buildings in the Chapin Mesa National Historic Landmark District at Mesa Verde National Park.

  • Yosemite National Park (California): Yosemite National Park is home to some of our country’s most breathtaking cliffs, domes and waterfalls. However, the park suffers from $582 million in needed repairs. For example, more than $20 million is needed to rehabilitate trails including the Yosemite Bike Path, the Stubblefield Canyon Trail and the Clark Point Spur, a path that leads to the famous Vernal Falls.

Park fees, philanthropic donations, volunteer assistance and other sources help supplement federal funding, but ultimately the bulk of the funding needs must be met by Congress.

By passing the Great American Outdoors Act, Congress will not only provide funding to repair aging infrastructure on our public lands, it will put more Americans to work in the National Park System and help sustain local communities across the country that are dependent on park and recreation tourism.

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