Veterans from around the country flew to Washington, D.C., this week to defend our national parks and address their $11.3 billion maintenance backlog
The National Park Service last year celebrated its 100-year anniversary, yet while parks are as popular as ever, they struggle with more than $11 billion in needed repairs.
This deferred maintenance, which includes crumbling roads and bridges, run-down trails, deteriorating historic buildings, memorials and monuments, is largely a product of years of underfunding by Congress, yet the Trump Administration is proposing to cut the agency’ budget even further.
Many of our national park sites tell our nation’s military history, including battlefields, cemeteries, and memorials to those who served and gave their lives in the service of their country. There are approximately 156 sites managed by the National Park Service (NPS)—more than one-third of all NPS units—that commemorate and interpret military history. These sites need $6.2 billion in infrastructure repairs, more than half of the total maintenance backlog.
Earlier this week as the nation prepares to celebrate Veterans Day, a group of 14 veterans who are deeply passionate about our national parks visited with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the offices of 26 members of Congress to share this message: The neglect of some of our country’s most significant places is simply unacceptable.
“That’s particularly what I fought for, was to protect these values,” said Dick Shuptrine, a retired Air Force veteran who served during Vietnam. “I think that’s important to pass along the proper legacy for friends, family, everybody. I’ll continue to work for that as long as I can.”
These veterans – brought to Washington DC by NPCA and Pew Charitable Trusts – asked that members of Congress ensure that spending bills for the National Park Service include robust funding levels to address the $11.3 billion repair backlog, and that any infrastructure proposal include funding to address parks’ roads, buildings, and outdated water, sewer and electrical systems.
They also encouraged Congress to support the National Park Service Legacy Act, a bipartisan bill in the House and Senate to dedicate significant money into the backlog.
National parks represent our American heritage and embody our nation’s best values — independence, freedom, democracy and equality. Our vets served in the United States and abroad to protect these values. Congress should honor the service and sacrifice of our vets, and ensure that our national parks are well-maintained and in good repair.
About the author
Eric Bontrager Former Senior Manager, Communications
Eric Bontrager led communications outreach for NPCA's government affairs, clean air, energy, transportation, and veterans campaigns.