High Hopes for National Park Maintenance Fund in Next Congress

(Cuyahoga jco/Flickr)

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A bipartisan push in Congress to pay for a multi-billion-dollar maintenance backlog at national parks in Ohio and across America fell short this session, but backers are optimistic it will pass next year.

Parks and national monuments need money to maintain buildings, trails and equipment that have fallen into disrepair.

Backers of the measure say it had suppport in Congress, but ran out of time this session.

Rebecca Knuffke, an officer with the Restore Our Parks campaign for The Pew Charitable Trusts, says the bill has a leg up in the next legislative session because of its bipartisan support.

"The current legislation is supported by a third of the Senate and more than half of the House," she points out. "And according to a recent poll by The Pew Charitable Trusts, more than 75 percent of Americans support the plan to help address the almost $12 billion backlog."

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is a co-sponsor of the Restore Our Parks Act. The bill would provide up $6.5 billion over a five-year period.

The maintenance backlog in Ohio parks is estimated to be more than $100 million in needed repairs.

A Pew Charitable Trusts analysis found if that backlog were fully funded, it could create or support nearly 1,000 jobs in the state.

Knuffke says the bill would pay for repairs without using taxpayer dollars.

"This bill takes revenues from onshore and offshore drilling," she explains. "It would not take money from other important programs - in fact, the bill has language that would protect those already obligated funds, like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Historic Preservation Fund and the states' percentages of those revenues."

Knuffke notes that fully addressing the maintenance backlog could create nearly 110,000 infrastructure-related jobs nationwide.

The new Congress convenes on Jan. 3.
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