Fund parks



To the Editor:

Maine isn’t called the “vacationland” for nothing. With endless woods, majestic mountains and the cool ocean breeze, Maine has a lot to offer to its visitors. Last year, over 3.3 million people visited Acadia National Park alone. While they were enjoying our state’s natural beauty, these 3.3 million people made a significant impact on our local economy.

According to the National Park Service, visitors in the local region of Acadia National Park spent over $274 million in 2016 alone. While most of the spending was for lodging and eating, these local businesses all benefited from these visitors.

Other sectors that were directly affected were retail, transportation, camping and other recreational industries, supporting over 4,200 jobs, meaning that not only are visitors contributing to our local economy, but they are supporting local businesses that have become the heart of Maine.

Last year, a record-breaking 331 million people visited our national parks. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke just announced that in 2016, national parks generated $34.9 billion for the U.S. economy while supporting 318,000 jobs. In order to help support local economies, we must continue to ensure that our parks are preserving our nation’s natural beauty and history for future generations to enjoy.

However, national parks are in danger. Our national parks are facing a $12 billion maintenance backlog. These maintenance costs include repairing roads, updating visitor centers and other important needs that help make parks accessible. Acadia National Park is not exempt from these maintenance needs. More than $68 million is needed to help maintain and preserve Acadia. Of that $68 million, more than half is needed to repair roads. Without proper funding for Acadia and all of the national parks, our local economy could suffer.

Our national parks face these challenges in large part because Congress has not made them a funding priority. The entire National Park Service budget makes up just one-fourteenth of one percent of the federal budget, yet the agency’s budget continues to decline.

Last month, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced bipartisan legislation to dedicate funding to the deferred maintenance backlog of our national parks. The National Park Service Legacy Act would allocate $500 million annually to the park service from existing revenues the government receives for oil and natural gas royalties. This would happen every year until 2047.

This bill, if enacted, would provide relief for our parks. These repairs can jeopardize visitors’ experiences if they are left untouched. This could lead to fewer visitors, which would lead to subsequent impacts on the surrounding communities that depend on these parks for their economies.

Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins were cosponsors of this legislation, showing their support for all of our national parks. Thank you to both our senators for starting to take action on supporting our parks. With proper funding, parks such as Acadia National Park will be preserved for future generations to enjoy and continue to contribute to our local economy.

The National Park Service Legacy Act will put our national parks on the right track. By investing in our national parks, we will not only start to tackle this backlog, but we will make our parks more resilient and prepared to continue welcoming visitors eager to explore our nation’s most important natural and historic places. This investment will help our nation increase the economic output that national parks provide.

Congress created the park service a century ago to protect America’s treasured natural, historical and cultural sites and to ensure that Americans can enjoy these treasures. In order to help preserve Maine’s beautiful landscapes and help our local economy, we must urge Congress and the administration to make sure national parks have the resources they need. To do so, Congress must enact this legislation to help fund our parks.

Lindsy Crutchfield

National Parks and Conservation Association

Washington, D.C.

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