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American Recovery Act Putting Your Tax Dollars To Work in National Parks


True, when you consider that the maintenance backlog across the National Park System is some $8 billion or so, the $750 million-$920 million being spent in the parks courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act isn't that significant. Still, some good work is being done with the money.

As you read the following paragraphs, though, remember that one of the keys the Obama administration required when it came to spending this money was that a good number of jobs be created on the ground ASAP. In other words, the money might not be going to the most pressing needs of the National Park System, although many of these projects no doubt will be welcomed by visitors.

Acadia National Park

There's a whole lot of road work going on in the jewel of the Atlantic. More than $8 million is being spent in the park to resurface roads and parking lots, repair culverts, remove unneeded buildings, and replace safety and informational signs. More specifically, $170,000 is being spent to replace safety and informational signs, $2.2 million is going to resurface roads and parking lots, some $844,000 is being used to repair culverts and headwalls, $268,000 is paying for the removal of unneeded buildings, and $4.4 million is earmarked to rehabilitate roads and parking areas at the Schoodic Education and Research Center.

“We are putting the people of Maine back to work improving key infrastructure at one of the state’s most beautiful places and most popular tourist attractions,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said last weekend while touring Acadia. “This investment will not only help the residents of Maine find work during the current economic crisis, it help attract more visitors and ensure that those who do visit have a fuller, more enjoyable experience.”

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

As with Acadia, a lot of money is being invested in asphalt. And in at least one case, that means you just might have to alter your post-Labor Day weekend camping trip to Great Smoky. Nearly $9 million of the $64 million earmarked for the park via the recovery act is scheduled to be spent on projects by the end of August. Again, we’re not talking sexy -- new restroom and road repairs are leading the way -- but it’s the sort of work that visitors most definitely appreciate. Plus, trails are being improved and historic cemeteries within the park are getting some attention.

“The projects that can be accomplished using day-labor workers is funded at $1.2 million and is already under say,” says Great Smoky’s deputy superintendent, Kevin FitzGerald. “Work is ongoing to make improvements to ten different trails and over 60 historic cemeteries.”

One of the projects revolves around repaving the Cosby Campground parking area, and so the work can be completed before weather turns too cold later this fall, the campground will close the day after Labor Day so the paving can begin.

Yellowstone National Park

If you haven’t been in Yellowstone in recent years, you might not fully appreciate the first major project that was funded with $1.2 million through the recovery and reinvestment act. But the smooth road surface that runs 11 miles between the Lewis River Bridge and the park’s South Entrance is a nice improvement. Another project no doubt unnoticed by even the most discerning visitors was the new, $37,000 steam line installed for heating historic structures at park headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs.

All told, across the National Park System there are nearly 800 projects that are to be financed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Some projects are quite substantial -- Dinosaur National Monument is receiving $13 million for a new visitor center at the famous dinosaur fossil quarry and $30.5 million is being spent on repairs to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool -- and some are somewhat minor, such as the $56,000 being spent to repair and replace fire hydrants at Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland.


I just got back from the Tetons and the Jackson Hole Airport (inside Teton National Park) is being seriously upgraded with recovery funds.

Tony Farley

Maybe a better title for this article would be "putting your children's and grandchildren's tax dollars to work". As I understand it, the federal government is running a deficit, and the recovery act funds are coming through debt and expansion of the monetary supply, not through direct taxation. People always talk about preserving parks for future generations. Perhaps it's only fitting that we bill our children.

People always talk about preserving parks for future generations. Perhaps it's only fitting that we bill our children.

Well said my friend, well said.

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