America’s beauty is displayed at its best in our national parks. From mountains, rivers, deserts, forests, caves and the Grand Canyon, the U.S. National Parks are visited by millions of people every year. Because they belonging to all Americans, the price to visit one of the parks is relatively inexpensive for what you get.
You’ll get well-marked trails, park rangers with seeming endless knowledge, visitor centers (when they’re not closed by a pandemic) and even free tours. As you can imagine, the parks take a ton of money to run every year. While some of those costs are recovered by selling the rights to run concessions and hotels in the parks, there are always more projects that need to get done than money to do them. And there are plenty of other places our lawmakers want to spend money instead of repairing trails in the woods.
It took the 2019 Novel Coronavirus for all of us to realize how much we need the national parks. We’re all out looking for a socially-distanced vacation location and what better places than the wide-open areas of our park system. A recent National Recreation and Park Association poll found that “83 percent of U.S. adults agree that visiting their local parks, trails and open spaces is essential for their mental and physical well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Apparently, the U.S. Congress has seen the love the parks are getting and took this opportunity to pass the much needed “Great American Outdoors Act.” In the current political environment, it’s really incredible that the 9.5 billion dollar spending bill passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan majorities and already had the support of the White House.
Over the next five years, the money will pay for previously neglected park repairs. It also provides up to $900 million a year to acquire land for conservation and continue maintenance.
What will all this money go towards? According to The Guardian:
The Appalachian national scenic trail needs about $17m to update trails. Cape Cod national seashore could use $55m for deferred maintenance on paved roads, structures and buildings. Death Valley national park, which gets 1.7 million visitors a year, needs $129m. Seventy percent of the $9.5bn will go to park service projects
I’m a big national park geek so seeing that the parks are going to get a much-needed cash influx to fix all of the projects that had to be shelved because of prior budgets. Nothing that happens in Washington D.C. doesn’t have a fair share of politics behind it. I’m glad that for whatever reason, members of both parties thought this was a good time to give the parks the money they’ve needed for the past years and just didn’t get.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary