Senator Lamar Alexander on Wednesday cosponsored legislation to help reduce the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service (NPS) saying the legislation is “good news for Tennessee’s national parks."
“This funding will help address the nearly $12 billion of the growing maintenance backlog in our national parks, including $232 million at Great Smoky Mountain National Park,” Senator Alexander said. “The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures – and it has a tremendous economic impact in East Tennessee. The Park attracts nearly twice the visitors of any other national park – and last year it broke its own record with more than 11 million visitors. Addressing the maintenance backlog will help attract even more visitors and create more jobs for Tennesseans. We must continue to work together to find solutions to the many challenges facing our public lands, and this legislation takes an important step toward doing that.”
On March 28, Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced the National Park Service Legacy Act, bipartisan legislation that would establish a National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund – funded by existing federal oil and gas revenues – to help reduce the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service. Tennessee’s national parks have nearly $300 million in deferred maintenance projects. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park's $232 million in deferred maintenance includes $162 million for projects in Tennessee and $70 million for projects in North Carolina. This legislation could help provide funding to repair and rehabilitate buildings, improve park facilities and finish transportation projects in Tennessee’s national parks.
According to the National Park Service, the annual maintenance needs of the 417 units in the National Park System are almost double the annual appropriations received by NPS – which causes the deferred maintenance costs to increase each year. President Trump and his Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, have made addressing the growing maintenance backlog a top priority. On April 4, the president donated $78,333 – his salary from his first few months in office – to the National Park Service to address infrastructure needs on our national battlefields. The National Park Service manages 25 national battlefields and military parks throughout the country, including four in Tennessee: Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Shiloh National Military Park and Stones River National Battlefield.