National parks to get much-needed infrastructure improvements

(U.S. Department of the Interior)

I received a press release from the Department of the Interior and Secretary Ryan Zinke recently. And while most of the releases that came out of that agency in recent months have been disturbing and controversial (example: shrinking of national monuments in the West), this one was about something we can all get behind.

It concerned plans by the Trump Administration to fix and preserve buildings, trails, roads, lodges, campgrounds, and other infrastructure in our national parks and wildlife areas. That maintenance backlog stands at a staggering $11.6 billion.

President Trump’s FY2019 budget includes a proposed Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that will provide up to $18 billion for improvements and repairs in the 417 national parks, wildlife refuges, and Native American schools.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, is one of the supporters of the Restore Our Parks Act. But others include Democrats like Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.

Maintenance backlogs are nothing new. We faced a similar problem in Ohio a few years back. Upkeep in our state parks had fallen to an all-time low in 2008 with an estimated $200 million backlog in needed repairs – and that did not include the infamous Buckeye Lake dam.

Fortunately, as the economy improved, the administration of Gov. John Kasich tackled the problem head on. And improvements have been made on several fronts.

With money allocated in recent budgets, the Ohio DNR has been able to tackle projects at the Alum Creek SP campground, as well as several boat launch ramps there. Work is underway on the Buck Creek cabins, the Caesar Creek campground, Cowan Lake’s cabins and marina, and the Delaware campground and shelter house.

The agency surveyed state park users in order to prioritize projects. In all, improvements have been made or are being made to 28 of the 74 state parks.

An estimated $230 million has gone into park improvements in the last seven years, according to the DNR.

Visitation at National Parks is at an all-time high, with some parks like Zion and Arches considering limiting the number of visitors in a day or creating a reservation system for visitation. I have noticed the western parks are especially popular with foreigners.

We need to keep these facilities in good order. They remain “America’s Best Idea.”

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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