The National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog has grown to nearly $12 billion. Repairs include aging visitor centers, outdated water and electrical systems, trails, historic buildings, military infrastructure, docks, campgrounds, roads and bridges. Facilities are aging and have not received the necessary investments for their upkeep over the years which could lead to irreparable damage.
The National Park Service manages nearly 10,000 miles of roads, 40% of which are in poor to fair condition. Repairs are needed not only for asphalt, concrete, gravel and dirt roads throughout the system, but also for bridges, tunnels and parking lots, collectively totaling $6 billion of the nearly $12 billion backlog of overdue maintenance repairs.
Many park roads are well beyond their intended lifecycles and need structural work to keep them accessible and safe. Illustrative examples in some of the most iconic parks include Yellowstone’s Loop Road, Glacier’s Many Glacier Road, Olympic’s road to the Hoh Rainforest, and Old Mine and River Roads and Hwy Route 209 in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
The National Park Service manages over 18,600 miles of paved, gravel and dirt trails that lead visitors to unforgettable vistas, landmarks and natural and cultural resources. With over 300 million visitors to national parks a year, these trails experience considerable wear and tear. Trail repairs account for nearly $500 million of the total backlog cost.
Trails must be maintained to fill holes caused by foot traffic and weather, retaining walls must be repaired and rebuilt to address erosion, and unwelcome vegetation and debris must be removed. Some iconic national parks with major trail maintenance needs are Grand Canyon, Olympic, Yellowstone and Zion.
Many visitor centers, historic and military buildings, docks and other buildings need tens of millions of dollars for structural improvements ranging from new heating and cooling systems and to complete overhauls of entire buildings. Without these improvements, buildings and other structures may be closed to the public. Visitor experiences suffer, or staff have inadequate work facilities as a result.
For example, Alcatraz is in serious need of major structural repairs throughout the park as is employee housing at Big Bend National Park. Historic piers are also closed down due to significant deterioration including at San Francisco Maritime and Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The seawall at Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC is also degrading and requires a major rebuild.
Facilities also experience wear and tear on the surface such as peeling paint and crumbling plaster from age, weather and climate. If left unaddressed, these issues can worsen over time and cause more expensive repair needs in the long run.
Illustrative examples include chipped and peeling paint at Federal Hall National Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, and the Maritime Museum at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as well as crumbling walls at the Lockwood House in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
WASTEWATER / DRINKING WATER REPAIR
The National Park Service manages many wastewater and drinking water facilities throughout the system to ensure visitors will have basic services such as safe drinking water. Systemwide wastewater and drinking water facilities require nearly $700 million in repairs.
Some examples include the restroom facilities at Glacier National Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the drinking water systems at Wright Brothers National Memorial and Olympic National Park.
The National Park Service protects and conserves our nation’s greatest natural, cultural, and historical places and makes them available for the public’s enjoyment. To tell those stories, the National Park Service not only relies on park rangers, but also interpretive signs, plaques and visitor centers with educational displays.
These needs are widespread including signage at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, Gateway National Recreation Area, Hot Springs National Park, Federal Hall National Memorial and George Washington Memorial Parkway.