A vast network of infrastructure goes into supporting more than seven billion outdoor recreational outings. Americans enjoy park and recreation facilities maintained by entities at all levels of government. At the federal level, the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are the main providers of park facilities. States and localities provide the bulk of park and recreational facilities that seven in 10 Americans use on a regular basis. National forests and grasslands capture and filter drinking water for 180 million people. America’s parks and public lands also support industries such as lodging, restaurants and bars, grocery and convenience stores, and gas stations.
U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Resources Stewardship and Science, “2015 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, Economic Contributions to Local Communities, States, and the Nation. April 2016, pg 8, 27 July 2016, file:///C:/Users/bray/Downloads/NPS%20VSE%202015_%20FINAL.pdf.
A vast network of infrastructure goes into supporting more than seven billion outdoor recreational outings. Roads, bridges, trails, campsites, boat ramps, and other facilities help facilitate interaction with our public lands and access to the outdoors. The National Park Service (NPS) alone manages more than 75,000 constructed assets. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) ranks among the top federal providers of outdoor recreation, hosting approximately 370 million visitors annually at 403 lake and river projects in 43 states. NPS welcomed 307.2 million visitors in 2015 and national forests and grasslands hosted 161 million visits in 2012. Our national wildlife refuges accommodated nearly 47 million visitors in 2014. All of these parks require roads, trails, parking areas, and other facilities to make them accessible. Maintenance and investment keep the infrastructure safe and capable of meeting the demand of a growing population.
The 2016 centennial of the National Park Service helped shine a light on the infrastructure needs and crowded facilities in our national parks. In 2015 NPS reached a record-high of $11.9 billion in deferred maintenance, which NPS defines as “maintenance that was not performed at the required intervals to ensure an acceptable facility condition to support the expected life cycle of an asset.” $5.97 billion of the deferred maintenance is for paved roads and structures including bridges, tunnels, and paved parking areas. The remaining $5.95 billion in deferred maintenance includes unpaved parking areas, unpaved roadways, utility systems, dams, constructed waterways, marinas, aviation systems, railroads, ships, monuments, fortifications, towers, interpretive media, and amphitheaters.
Charge appropriate user fees at the local, state, and federal levels and allowing those agencies to use all collected user fees to support maintenance, operations and enhancements to their park systems.
Encourage communities who benefit economically from parks and public lands investment to also invest in their maintenance.
Reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fundto support acquisition of land and easements on land at the federal, state, and local levels.
Increase appropriationsfor the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Forest Service, and other federal providers of recreational facilities to address maintenance backlogs.
Leverage partnerships between the National Park Service and other recreation facilities operatorsand private groups to better utilize facilities and compensate for usage.
Enact legislation to permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to retain all collected recreation fees for use at its facilities.
Renegotiate franchise feeswith concessionaires of park and recreation facilities to increase return to support operation and maintenance of facilities.
Conservation and recreation advocates should collaborate and cooperate to benefit public interest in both conservation and recreation.