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National Dilemma: Parks Services Struggles with Facilities
August 31, 2016 -
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Sometimes, the heating and air-conditioning system at the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park Visitors Center goes on the fritz. Because he is in charge of the 2,000-year-old artifacts inside that building — things including copper carvings that are particularly sensitive to temperature change — such a system failure gives park Superintendent Dean Alexander a headache that he doesn’t need.
But when he considers that he is one cog in the wheel of a national park system that faces nearly $12 billion in long-delayed maintenance projects, Alexander said he realizes that Hopewell’s less than $500,000 in deferred projects make him luckier than most.
The parks service hopes this centennial celebration will increase appreciation of the system, lead to greater public support and translate to more public and private investment to sustain it.
Despite the backlog in maintenance projects, the National Park Service is on pace for its third consecutive record year of attendance. The system saw 292.8 million visitors in 2014, 307.2 million in 2015 and expects that to increase by at least 3 percent this year.
The parks service announced in February that its list of deferred maintenance projects grew by $440 million from the year before. President Barack Obama has twice proposed mandatory funding to get rid of the list within five years, but nothing has come of his proposals.
Some of the pressing maintenance issues at national parks have been well documented: Alcatraz in California is crumbling; Mammoth Cave in Kentucky has dirt trails that are growing dangerous; Glacier National Park in Montana needs a new fire-suppression system.
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This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell, editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions, email@example.com. Read about maintenance of National Parks Service facilities here.