As we celebrate National Park Week, April 21-29 and the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act which helped established the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, it’s worth noting the benefits national parks bring to our state and local communities, but also the challenges they face.
Nearly 1 million people visit Minnesota’s five national parks sites every year – and visitor spending in communities like Stillwater, according to the National Park Service, is $56 million! Minnesotans love their national parks and are concerned about providing long-term efforts to properly maintain them for generations to come. Minnesota’s national park sites need $17.8 million in maintenance to crumbling buildings, trails, boat landing and recreation areas.
Fortunately, there is some good news in this regard. Congress recently appropriated, with the support of Rep. Betty McCollum who serves on the Appropriations Committee, an additional $160 million to help address deferred maintenance needs in our national parks.
While a dedicated funding stream is needed to address the complete backlog of deferred maintenance long-term, Rep. McCollum’s support in increased funding is a positive and appreciated step forward.