Our national parks and monuments are looking haggard, including those in Minnesota. Congress needs to take action to restore these public treasures and stop further degradation.
The estimated cost of the deferred maintenance at the sites across the country is $11 billion. The longer the federal government puts off funding the repairs, the more that figure will grow — just as is the case with roads and bridges. U.S. House and Senate proposals this session will attempt to tackle the maintenance backlog. The good news is that movement on this issue appears to have bipartisan support.
The key to solving this problem is to make sure the funding is long-term and sustainable. A proposed restoration fund would be removed from appropriation cycles and instead use revenue the government gets from oil, gas, coal and other mineral subsidies. That method of support should be thoroughly examined and considered.
In Minnesota alone, the costs to renovate the sites are mounting, according to the National Park Service’s 2016 estimates: Voyageurs National Park needs $17.3 million in work; Grand Portage National Monument, $1.3 million; Pipestone National Monument, $1.2 million; St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, $1.4 million; and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, $1.1 million.
Besides providing unique, natural and historically significant destinations for the public to visit, parks and monuments provide economic benefits. In far northern Minnesota, 237,250 people visited Voyageurs in 2017. Those are tourism dollars that the region and state gets because it is home to a natural wonder. Research done by Pew Charitable Trusts determined that 1 million people who visited national parks in 2016 spent $56.2 million and supported 897 jobs.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE MANKATO FREE PRESS