Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin

State Parks Face Maintenance Woes, Growing Use

  October 16, 2020

By Dan Hounsell

Help is on the way for the long-beleaguered U.S. National Parks and their battle with deferred maintenance, thanks to the Great American Outdoors Act. Signed into law in August, the act established the National Park and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to provide $1.9 billion per year for facilities maintenance and repair projects under the National Park Service.

But what about state parks? Each state is responsible for ongoing maintenance of its own parks, and with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on state finances and budgets and more people taking up outdoor activities, the parks’ near-term future is looking grim. Consider the case of Wisconsin.

Deferred maintenance at state parks and properties accounts for the vast majority — $69 million — of the $93 million requested for capital projects under the budget proposed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, reports Wisconsin Public Radio. Projects include repairs to general facilities, fish hatcheries and boat launches, as well as replacement of ranger stations and restroom and shower facilities. The funding request would address 292 projects.

The request in Wisconsin comes as its parks have seen more than 6 million visitors since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic — a phenomenon that is challenging the management and budgets of many states’ parks, including Alaska.

“This system has faced many challenges this year, some originating in COVID-19 and associated impacts, others rooted in ongoing longer-term issues such as earthquakes, flooding, coastal erosion, bark beetle infestation and excessive wildland fires,” writes Ricky Gease, director of Alaska State Parks, in the Anchorage Daily News. “The division has also responded to the state’s fiscal challenges, by reducing its operating budget by 10 percent and enhancing revenues over the last five years to stabilize our finances.”

Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.



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