For years I have enjoyed our national parks, hiking, camping, exploring, and sightseeing. In southern Wisconsin we are blessed by our proximity to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, just one of four national park sites in our state.
Unfortunately, national parks across the country, like those in Wisconsin, are in disrepair. An estimated $11.6 billion is needed to fix crumbling roads, outdated electrical systems, and deteriorating monuments in most of the 418 units of the national park system, with $8.7 million of that total needed to repair sites in our state. Maintenance matters because it affects visitor accessibility, tourism revenue, and park preservation.
Fixing our parks not only makes them more accessible, it creates jobs. According to a recent study commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts, over 110,000 jobs would be created or supported if we took care of the maintenance needs in all or our national parks. Rural communities would benefit greatly as many of these jobs would be created in towns adjacent to national parks.
The good news is that a bill - the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, H.R. 6510 - has been introduced in Congress that would create a dedicated fund for five years to pare down that $11.6 billion backlog. This bill has over 200 bipartisan supporters, but It needs time on the full House calendar to get passed.
Our national parks preserve our history, honor our veterans, boost our local economy, and provide a place of recreation for millions of visitors each year. We need Rep. Paul Ryan in both his role as Speaker of the House and as a neighbor to the Ice Age Trail to step up now and call for passage of this legislation. Our parks are depending on it.
Katy Mankamyer Phillips