Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 07.13.16
Just Outside Washington


More National Parks funding needed

I sent this to Senator Mark Warner in response to an e-mail he had sent. In modified form it was also sent to Senator Tim Kaine and Representative Don Byer. Senator Warner,

I was pleased to receive your e-mail about the National Park Service (NPS) being awarded a $90 million Department of Transportation FASTLANE grant for the overhaul of Arlington Memorial Bridge and I was pleased by the grant. However, I was appalled at the process.

The inefficiency involved in having one federal agency apply to another for partial funding for a project that both the executive and legislative branches have long recognized as necessary, is appalling. Further, the grant will not complete this necessary job; estimated to cost $250 million. This situation will lead to further inefficiencies because of the effort required by the project team in the National Park Service to piece together the rest of the required funding.

This kind of government nonsense is indicative of a larger problem;: Congressional failure to fund necessary projects and programs.

The NPS transportation system is partially funded by the Federal Lands Transportation Program, which has an annual budget of $268 million for projects in the seven NPS Regions. This is clearly insufficient given the essentially one year's budget will be consumed by one project: the Memorial Bridge and the estimated $12 billion NPS backlog.

I am a frequent visitor of our national parks and last year visited several in Utah. I also have visited the national parks in the Washington area, Virginia, and elsewhere. Based on my visits, I have two observations: (1) the NPS employees and contractors do a terrific job and (2) the maintenance in the parks is inadequate. I believe the inadequate maintenance is due to inadequate funding, which has resulted from the U.S. Congress's abdication of its responsibilities.

Additional observations

1. In 2015 the national parks received more than 307 million visits, essentially one for every person living in the U.S., which attests to the parks public support.

2. The proposed plan, by National Parks director Jon Jarvis, which would allow naming rights to be sold on some park property, is an act of desperation driven by lack of funding and contrary to the NPS mission.

3. The economic value of the national parks was demonstrated in 2013 when Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, signed a contract with the NPS to keep the five parks in Utah open during the federal government shutdown, which cost Utah about $170,000 a day.

Virginia has over 30 national parks and monuments ranging from Shenandoah National Park to the George Washington Birthplace in Westmorland County. Businesses in the state benefit greatly from the visitors to these facilities. I would appreciate your taking a more active role in the governing of our National Park System.

Frank Bernheisel