Effort to provide financial aid for ailing U.S. national parks stalls in Congress

An effort in Congress to provide new money for the National Park Service to help clear a $12 billion maintenance backlog has stalled.

Though one bill has wide bipartisan support, the Restore Our Parks legislation that would provide $6.5 billion in funding over five years to revitalize park infrastructure is now languishing in Congress.

The money would come from onshore royalty revenues for oil and gas production on public lands.

“This legislation represents one of the most significant investments in the 100-year history of the Park Service,” co-lead author Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in an email.

“The longer we kick the can on the deferred maintenance backlog, the more we’ll hold back communities that rely on visitors to help generate economic activity.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) urged the chamber to “make sure [the bill] gets out of committee} and added that lawmakers should not “miss this opportunity” to put the bill on the floor for a full vote.

The National Park Service has reported that it faces an infrastructure funding crisis for 419 sites entailing projects like fixing roads, repairing bridges, making wall repairs, and upgrading water sanitation. Also, the NPS wants to make upgrades and repairs to visitor centers.

A companion House bill has 329 Republican and Democrat co-sponsors. It breezed through several committees and is now waiting for Democrat leaders who control the chamber to schedule a vote.

Identified repairs include spending $655 million to upgrade the National Mall in Washington D.C., along with $100 million to plus a leaky water system at Grand Canyon National Park.

The park service says it has delayed many repairs for decades as it awaited funding.

Last week, Yellowstone National Park announced that it needs to make $585 million worth of repairs and infrastructure upgrades including a deteriorating bridge.

Concrete can be seen crumbling away from the bridge, built in the 1960s, over the Yellowstone River in the park’s northeast corner.

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