11 JUN 2019: From Old Faithful and Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, America’s “treasured” national parks require long-term funding to reverse a chronic state of “disrepair” and to ensure their future viability, says the new chair of the US Travel Association.

Moreover, visitations by more than 318 million international visitors a year are at risk, threatening the loss of millions of dollars to local economies and over 300,000 jobs if the situation persists, according to the USTA, which blames aging infrastructure and decades of underfunding for the backlog of maintenance repairs at close to 400 sights across the country.

“Our national parks – both the natural wonders and the urban sights –are some of America’s biggest draws for international travellers,” USTA chair Elliott Ferguson, who is also president and CEO of Destination DC, told delegates at the recent US travel trade showcase IPW in Anaheim, Ca. “Whether these visitors are coming to my city (Washington D.C.) to see the monuments, museums and memorials on the National Mall or experiencing the beauty of Joshua Tree here in California, we need to make sure these public lands are taken care of.

“The truth is, many of these treasures are falling into disrepair. The National Park Service is facing almost $12 billion in deferred maintenance repairs.” And without funding, the parks risk falling into further disrepair, he adds.

To that end, the USTA is actively supporting two legislative bills currently in Congress.

“[The] Restore Our Parks Act and the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act… bills would establish a dedicated source of funding for our national parks and preserve their viability for generations to come,” says Ferguson. “We are hopeful they will continue to move through Congress and will be enacted into law.”

The bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act was introduced in July, 2018 as a compromise between the previously introduced National Park Service Legacy Act and the National Park Restoration Act. It would establish a National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to allocate existing government revenues from on and offshore energy development to address the ever-growing backlog of maintenance and repairs needed in the national parks.

“Our national parks amaze, astound, and awe millions of Americans each year – but in order to accommodate so many visitors, the parks need to be well-maintained,” legislation co-sponsor Senator Angus King said at the time. “The existing $12-billion (CA$15.92 billion) maintenance backlog threatens to prevent future generations from accessing these beautiful public lands, which is simply unacceptable.”

Moreover, adds the USTA, “As the US seeks to grow its share of the international travel market, it is crucial that we maintain one of its biggest draws for visitation: our national parks.”


 

U.S. National Park
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Michael Baginski

Editor at Large, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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