For Purple Mountain Majesties

Budget woes abound in State and National Parks and it’s starting to hit home. California is permanently closing 70 state parks. Ohio is opening up state land to gas and oil drilling to help pay for maintenance. In times like these, when we most need a little fresh air and room to breathe (and when we are all looking for affordable vacation spots!) it’s hard to hear that these opportunities to paddle, hike or bike are being eroded.

Last year, more than 52 million people camped in state parks. National Parks have also seen increased visitation since the 2008 collapse. At the same time, it’s been suggested that the Park Service’s budget, currently running at about $2.3 billion, should be at least $5 billion or $6 billion to adequately meet the agency’s needs. Additionally, National Parks suffer from an estimated $8-11 billion backlog of maintenance and updates. I’ve been to a few of those scary restrooms.

The irony is that tourism can be a great driver for growth. Analyses show that these parks bring in $4 for every $1 spent and much of the revenue returns directly to the park where they are collected. It points to the economic reason to invest, along with the recreational, educational and philosophical motives.

I heard a recent radio interview with a Park Service official who offered some ideas for all of us to help.

  • Get inspired – decide this issue is too important to ignore
  • Get in the car – visit these places and support the resource
  • Get involved – send a letter to congress or a letter to the newspaper asking to fully fund our parks

And just like the free cookie at the grocery store, there are some incentives for you to get outdoors more this summer and support our parks:

  • To celebrate the first day of summer, the National Park Service has waived all entrance fees for more than 100 parks today.
  • The North Face is partnering with State Parks for the second annual Explore Your Parks program. The program, which includes Denver, encourages people living in seven cities around the country to get outdoors and enjoy front-country, close-to-home recreation opportunities. Customers can get a free day pass and activity guide to the parks in their area with any purchase of The North Face product at participating retailers.

We are nearing the centennial of the Park Service and can hopefully honor its mission to give every American affordable access to these treasures. The reason we have these parks is because individuals have stood up to say we not only want them protected, but we need them funded.

4 Comments

  1. Great article! One thing that has given me a greater appreciation for parks was learning about the motivations, hardships, and sacrifices made to create them. This is well illustrated in the film series by Ken Burns, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” shown on PBS a while back. Even though it focuses specifically on national parks, the application can be applied to all parks nationwide.

    • I agree, Brent. That was an awesome series. When I was googling around to write this post, I came across a bunch of people who are all for reinstating the CCC to put people to work and sustain our parks at the same time. That was a successful program at the time and really shows how it takes the determination of a whole nation to make the parks what they are.

  2. This is an interesting issue, one of the first things that needs to be looked at is how the parks are being used. For instance some of the state parks in Colorado were overbuilt in relation to useage and the maintenance that is associate with that is very extensive. I have worked on a new reserior in the area where I live and we are really trying to develop a very detailed phasing plan taking baby steps with the goal to just get the park open. Assuming the usage is what we are expecting the park will be phased with development over many years. I know most of these parks at issue are already open, maybe a solution is to look at closing portions of the park without closing the entire thing. It is a absolute shame to close parks that people have spent years to open to the public and protect for the future generations.

    • I didn’t even think about that. I know a lot of comments from the public I’ve seen on creating master plans for these state or county-run recreation areas are that they shouldn’t take away from what is already there for the enjoyment of all. Creating fee areas helps fund maintenence and facilities, but it also creates facilities that need to then be funded. On top of that it closes the area off to people who can’t afford it but would have gone there even if there weren’t bathrooms or boat docks. A few people were saying that’s why these lands should be federally funded, not fee-driven. But it’s a balancing act when federal funds are already hard to come by. Baby steps seems like a good solution.

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