Time has come to rally in defense of national parks

From the forests of majestic Mount Rainier the spectacular Olympics and to the slopes of the North Cascades, our national parks are unique pieces of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage, set aside for visitors now and in the future to explore.

  • Tuesday, July 25, 2017 9:00am
  • Opinion

Our national parks are America’s favorite places. We Washingtonians are very grateful to have spectacular opportunities to enjoy several national parks located within our state. From the forests of majestic Mount Rainier the spectacular Olympics and to the slopes of the North Cascades, our national parks are unique pieces of our nation’s natural and cultural heritage, set aside for visitors now and in the future to explore.

A record-breaking 331 million people visited parks nationwide last year. But while parks are as popular as ever, they are facing an incredible challenge: $11.3 billion in needed infrastructure repairs and not enough money to fix them.

Rangers and other park staff do an amazing job protecting our parks, but the sheer scope of the deferred maintenance backlog is what makes this such a challenge. Needed repairs range from unmaintained trails to crumbling roads to visitor centers built over 50 years ago are in desperate need of repair and upgrades. Some projects would cost just a few thousand dollars to fix, while others could cost hundreds of millions. While some things can be replaced, historical buildings cannot.

No park is immune to this affliction. Washington’s national parks have a maintenance backlog of $393 million. One of our most popular parks, Mount Rainier National Park, has a total of $152 million in repair needs.

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 1/14th of 1 percent of the federal budget. In fact, the Park Service receives less than 60 cents out of every dollar it needs just to keep the backlog from growing, according to the National Parks Conservation Association, and the president’s proposed budget for the agency – which would be the largest cut to the agency since World War II – includes even further cuts to park maintenance.

Recently, Washington Reps. Dave Reichert and Derek Kilmer introduced bipartisan legislation to make these repairs. The National Park Service Legacy Act, the House companion to an identical Senate bill introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) earlier this year, would eventually allocate $500 million annually to the Park Service from existing revenues the government receives for oil and natural gas royalties, every year, until 2047.

This proposal, if enacted, would provide urgently needed relief for our parks. If left unchecked, these repair needs can jeopardize visitors’ experience in national parks. Continuing to underfund and ignore repair needs in our parks will mean fewer visitors and subsequent impacts on the surrounding communities that depend on these parks for their economies.

National park visitation generated $34.9 billion for the U.S. economy in 2016 while supporting hundreds of thousands of private-sector jobs. Visitors spent a total of $526 million in Washington’s national parks last year, creating 7,000 jobs. Mount Rainier National Park alone had 1.3 million visitors in fiscal year 2016, infusing local economies with $50 million and creating over 600 jobs.

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. The National Park Service Legacy Act, recently introduced in the Senate, takes the right approach by dedicating needed funds to preserve our parks. Sen. Patty Murray has already signed on to the bill and I urge Sen. Cantwell to follow her example. As our parks move into their second century, Congress should seize on this bipartisan momentum to help fix our parks by approving this proposal.

We are asking everyone who understands and values the qualities our National Parks offer to please contact your elected officials and request they join us on our request.

Please save our most precious commodity, our heritage, our National Parks.

Mayor Liz Reynolds

City of Enumclaw

More in Opinion

Poking dead things with sticks

They don’t mince words when they call it a “crawl space,” do they?

America is denying three hard truths

There are three major hard truths that our current government has been denying with great vigor: The Mueller Russia-U.S. Presidential election connection investigation, the war in Afghanistan, and the growing national deficit.

Promote the common good by ensuring individual liberty

Citizens following their passions and dreams improve the lot for all.

The three personas of President Trump

There’s Teleprompter Trump, Raw Meat Trump and Twitter Trump.

Carbon pricing won’t help environment, but will hurt taxpayers

How would a Washington carbon tax make a difference in the world “climate?”

It’s never enough

Based on numbers from the legislature, Enumclaw School District will be receiving huge funding increases from the state. Yet here we are with Enumclaw and a bunch of other districts telling the taxpayers, give us more, we need more.

Why are trailers allowed at Expo Center?

When my husband and I moved to our home in 2001 and for every year after the Expo Center grounds have always been pleasant to look at on your way to our home. No longer is this true.

A small act of kindness can make a big impact | SoHaPP

Join SoHaPP’s book group this February to discuss “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio. Don’t have the book? Check it out at the Enumclaw Library or visit The Sequel.

Vote ‘yes’ on replacement Education Programs levy

As a high school senior that has spent the entirety of my school life in Enumclaw, I know we have to take it upon ourselves to ensure the efficiency and inclusiveness of our school system.

Concern for common good is buried by greed

Tell big lies long and loudly enough and people will believe you.

Enumclaw boys, join the scouts

Troop 422 here in Enumclaw has taught me these things, and it has allowed me to be able to incorporate these things into my own life.

Concessions may be needed to enact carbon pricing

This is the sixth year Gov. Jay Inslee will try to convince lawmakers that the best means of fighting climate change is by making it more expensive to pollute.