Editor’s note: This letter is in response to Enumclaw Mayor Liz Reynold’s column, “Time has come to rally in defense of national parks,” published July 19.
The National Park Service just celebrated its Centennial. Mayor Reynolds is correct we have a lot to lose if Mount Rainier’s trails, roads, sewage and water systems and historic buildings are not properly maintained. As a retired park manager, I can say it not only puts visitor access, safety, and local economies at risk, it jeopardizes the agency’s mandate to preserve resources.
Reynolds’ numbers tell the story of the importance of Mount Rainier’s economic output. Expand that to the nation, in 2015, park visitors spent an estimated $16.9 billion in local gateway regions while visiting NPS lands across the country. These expenditures supported a total of 295,300 jobs, $11.1 billion in labor income, $18.4 billion in value added, and $32 billion in economic output in the national economy.
The Administration and Congress needs to commit to repairing the infrastructure, but also creating and adequately supporting a National Park Centennial Challenge Fund which would allow for the federal government to match private donations for parks maintenance.
We need to ensure that our children and grandchildren have the continued opportunity to experience our rich history in these places, and to learn more about the people and lands that have shaped our nation.