Today marks the 100th anniversary of an American treasure: the National Park Service (NPS). With 412 areas covering more than 84 million acres, located in every state, the National Park System includes national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks and sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House. In 2015, the National Park System hit a record of 300 million visitors. Yet, in spite of their popularity, the bill for deferred maintenance at the National Parks is nearly $12 billion nationwide.
In honor of the anniversary, CNN explored some historic national parks and monuments that pale in comparison to what they once were. From Padre Island National Seashore in Texas to Fort Sumter National Monument in South Carolina to Everglades National Park in Florida and Yosemite National Park in California, rising concerns about wildlife safety, pollution and park conditions abound. A recent article in The Tennessean details the eroding conditions and desperate funding needs of the most popular park in the NPS , Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which reportedly needs $232 million in repairs for roads, campgrounds and other facilities.
Fortunately, the American public is not indifferent to this issue. According to a study released in July 2016 by the National Park Foundation, 95 percent of the American public thinks protecting national parks for future generations is important, and 80 percent are willing to pay higher federal taxes to ensure the protection and preservation of the NPS. If maintaining national parks for the sake of preserving their historic and sentimental value weren’t enough, an economic study by the NPS shows that every federal dollar invested in our parks leads to $10 in economic activity by supporting nearby commerce. The data reveals that the parks generate $27 billion dollars in economic activity and support 250,000 private sector jobs nationally.
We look forward to the next 100 years of the beauty and recreation that national parks offer. To ensure that future, making the investment into the system needs to be a priority.