Former Mayor Ron Littlefield And Advocates Urge Congress To Restore Our Parks
Friday, May 31, 2019
Ahead of National Trails Day, National Park Partners Executive Director Tricia Mims led a tour of trails near the popular Point Park destination on Lookout Mountain to highlight the nearly $50 million in deferred maintenance facing Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. She was joined by former Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy President Taft Sibley.
Earlier this month, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander announced the Trump administration was backing his effort to dedicate nearly $6 billion toward deferred maintenance projects in our national parks, cutting the backlog in half.
In February 2019, Senator Alexander reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan bill to create a dedicated source of funding for the $12 billion in deferred maintenance projects to help restore our 418 national parks, including 12 parks right here in Tennessee. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03) is a co-sponsor of the legislation, as well as Reps. Phil Roe (TN-01), Jim Cooper (TN-05), and Steve Cohen (TN-09).
According to the National Park Service, tourism to Chickamauga and Chattanooga Military Park created $69.2 million in economic benefits in 2018 alone. Yet the park faces $49.5 million in deferred maintenance as of 2015, impacting roads, bridges, restrooms, and trail maintenance. Last year, Senator Lamar Alexander visited Point Park to highlight some of the deferred maintenance needs in Tennessee’s 12 national parks.
“I’ve been involved in planning and politics and tourism here most of my life. I can tell you from experience that these parks have been so interlaced with our economic successes that you can’t put a price on it,” said Ron Littlefield, former mayor of Chattanooga. “I don’t know any business people who would allow this amount of deferred maintenance to build up as we have with our national parks. When Volkswagen decided to come here, they said what brought them here was the quality of life that only Chattanooga and our national park offers. I applaud Senator Alexander for getting this legislation in front of the Senate, in front of the House, and I hope it gets passed.”
“I use the trail system here on a weekly basis, and the parts of the park I usually see often are overlooked because they’re less visible,” said Taft Sibley, president of the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy and local trail advocate. “Our 80 miles of trail systems are an incredible asset to Chattanooga and our visitors, but if trees fall and block the path for months without being addressed, it becomes a public safety issue.”
“When we talk about deferred maintenance, we’re talking about the backlog of roads, bridges, trails, bathrooms, and other facilities that make our national parks so enjoyable and accessible for the nearly 1 million people who visit Chattanooga and Chickamauga National Military Park,” said Tricia Mims, executive director of the National Park Partners. “The last major spending by Congress was over 60 years ago. It’s time for another era of reinvestment. We are supportive of Senator Alexander’s legislation to restore our parks.”
For more information on deferred maintenance projects in our national parks, visit the Pew Charitable Trusts.