Properly maintaining national parks well worth money, effort

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all facets of society, with businesses closing, schools going to distance learning, and even parks closing in some instances, such as the situation in the city of Marquette.

However, with some exceptions, people still are allowed to get outside and recreate.

Good thing. With spring upon us and cabin fever probably having set in with many people, a brisk hike can reawaken the senses.

So, it’s disheartening to read that Michigan’s national parks need more than $50 million for maintenance and repairs.

Weather and just regular wear and tear, of course, doesn’t stop in the middle of a pandemic.

Munising Mayor Rod DesJardins said in a Monday Mining Journal article that Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has $10 million worth of deferred maintenance that’s evident at the park headquarters.

The Keweenaw National Historical Park has $5.3 million worth of needs too.

Isle Royale National Park also could use funds for $17.9 million worth of deferred maintenance projects. People might forget that Isle Royale, although it is a large wilderness area, has buildings, and $10.1 million of that amount is required to maintain them. This figure comes from Pew, a nonpartisan Philadelphia-based think tank.

Pew noted that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is working to increase funding to national parklands by about $50 million a year, with Congress having the authority to appropriate an additional $300 million.

Pew is urging lawmakers to include dedicated funding of $4.8 billion for high-priority transportation-related assets within the parks, which would reduce the $12 billion national backlog.

Deferred maintenance projects are easy to overlook, both for Michigan national parks and national parks across the United States. The historic buildings located in these gems add a lot to the visitor experience.

Also, by making national parks better kept, more visitors should flock to them, adding to the local tourism economies.

However, the longer these projects are held off, the worse the buildings likely will be structure-wise, and that could amount to more maintenance funds needed over time.

We hope more federal dollars can be found to address the national parks’ maintenance backlog. That might not be easy, considering the amount of federal money that’s going to other coronavirus-related issues.

The national parks, though, are worth it.


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