The National Park Service (NPS) this week released its Fiscal Year 2015 deferred maintenance statistics for national parks. The $11.93 billion nationwide total is a $440 million increase from the previous year.
Deferred maintenance is necessary work – performed on infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, visitor centers, trails and campgrounds – that has been delayed for more than one year. Aging facilities, increasing use of park facilities and scarce resources contribute to the growing backlog.
“While Congress provided increases this year, the annual bill for maintenance in America’s national parks is still almost twice as much as is appropriated,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis.
Congressional funding for the National Park Service in 2016 includes an additional $90 million for non-transportation maintenance. Congress also passed a new highway bill which will provide a $28 million increase for transportation projects in parks this year. Funding for transportation-related maintenance and construction will continue to rise, by $8 million per year for five years, until it reaches $300 million per year in 2020.
Nearly every unit in the National Park System has maintenance items that have been deferred. Regions regularly evaluate and prioritize project submissions to ensure available dollars make a difference, and will be using the new funds to address the highest priorities. For details about deferred maintenance at a particular national park, visit go.nps.gov/deferredmaint and click on the “NPS Asset Inventory Summary by Park” report.
Even though more maintenance items had to be deferred in 2015, these increases from Congress are welcome. Jarvis said they are part of a multifaceted approach to end the growth of deferred maintenance and eventually have enough resources to keep pace with annual maintenance responsibilities.
“We have a lot yet to do but I think everything is moving in the right direction,” Jarvis said of the deferred maintenance issue. “Congress has pitched in with base funding and with additional funds for the Centennial Challenge – a program that enables us to leverage private and non-profit partner contributions to complete important projects that improve visitor services in parks. There is more Congress can do through the Centennial Act now under consideration including short-term mandatory appropriations.”