WASHINGTON - This week is National Park Week, which means admission is free to all 417 parks and cultural sites this weekend.
The National Park Service celebrated its 100th birthday last fall, and advocates for the parks are pressing Congress to pass a bill to start working down a massive maintenance backlog.
Alan Spears, director of cultural resources and government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), says the parks need to roll into their second century in the best shape possible.
“We’ve got a backlog at $12 billion,” Spears said. “Half of that is transportation, so, that’s paved roads, bridges, tunnels and parking lots in national parks, and then, the rest of that would be structures.”
Senate Bill 751, the National Park Service Legacy Act, was introduced two weeks ago in Congress. The bipartisan bill would use existing revenues to tackle the backlog over the next 30 years. Spears said NPCA is encouraging additional senators to sign on as co-sponsors.
The parks will have a full complement of staff and programs this weekend. For more information on parks and events by location, visit www.NPS.gov.
Spears notes the maintenance backlog could get worse if Congress follows through on President Donald Trump’s budget proposal. It would trim funding for the National Park Service’s parent agency, U.S. Interior Department, by 12 percent.
“Well, I mean those cuts would be extreme, very extreme,” Spears said. “And they would have an adverse impact on all operations for the Department of the Interior, and it would have an adverse impact on national parks.”
The president has expressed support for large infrastructure programs. However, Congress will determine the final budget this fall.