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National Parks Damaged By Deferred Maintenance


By Naomi Millán Maintenance & Operations
Steps Closed Sign in Front of Overgrown Outdoor Stairwell

A recently released video from the U.S. Department of the Interior makes an emotional plea for addressing the $18.62 billion deferred maintenance backlog in the nation’s parks. Visitor centers, bathroom facilities, staff housing, historic facilities, and other infrastructure across the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and U.S. Forest Service are all overdue for maintenance.

The National Park Service alone experienced a deferred maintenance increase of $275 million between October 2016 and September 2017, with its total deferred maintenance tallying up to $11.607 billion. This backlog is split pretty evenly between roadway maintenance — including bridges, tunnels, and parking — and all other facilities, including dams, buildings, and utility systems.

As part of its response, the National Park Service recently increased entrance fees by $5 per seven-day vehicle pass, with at least 80 percent of the money staying at the park where it is collected to fund projects to improve visitor experience.

Over the last five years, the National Park Service has hosted 1.5 billion visitors, including more than 300 million last year. But only one-third of national parks charge an entrance fee. Organizations such as the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable suggest that public-private partnerships have a potential to help further close the deferred maintenance gap.

This Quick Read was submitted by Naomi Millán, senior editor, Building Operating Management.

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