By Chip McElroy
Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas — I know for certain there two things that enjoy broad bipartisan support: Craft Beer and National Parks! That is why Live Oak Brewery recently hosted “Brews for Big Bend.”
This was a fundraising event to assist with special projects in Texas’ largest national park, Big Bend. One particular project relates to deferred maintenance. According to the National Park Service, Texas has a deferred maintenance backlog of nearly $157 million with 57% of that amount being at Big Bend.
What is deferred maintenance? In short, it is work not finished by the required timelines to help ensure that parks are up to safety standards for everyone to enjoy.
This can include:
- Aging Infrastructure
- Broken Bridges
- Crumbling Roads
- Deteriorating Monuments & Memorials
- Increased Wear & Tear
- Outdated Wastewater & Electrical Systems
- Unsafe Historic Structures, and
- Unsafe Paths
Although park funding has increased in recent years, there still continues to be a budget shortfall. However, there is hope in the form of H.R. 2584 – bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX) that addresses funding for national parks without raising taxes.
It is supported by 39 Co-Sponsors, evenly split between both political parties. Passage of this bill is important because without it, the National Park Service is proposing significant fee increases into some of our parks. America’s national parks must remain affordable. Everyone, regardless of race, gender, citizenship, or even religion should have the opportunities to visit America’s national treasures without being priced out.
What does this legislation do? For simplification purposes, HR 2584 would:
- Establish a federal National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to draw down the $12 billion national park maintenance backlog
- Be financed using revenue from oil, gas, coal, and other mineral operations that is not already allocated to other programs, and
- Ramp up over time to address high-priority deferred maintenance needs
Under this legislation, 80% of the money would go toward repairs and to rehabilitate National Park Service sites, and 20% would be used to restore transportation-related infrastructure.
As it relates to Texas, please know that over 5 million visitors in 2016 enjoyed national parks in Texas with $288.5 million spent in the local economies. That spending supported 4,445 jobs and added $2.9 billion to the state’s economy – money that helps businesses, schools, and families.
And, in respect to deferred maintenance – in Texas – it is close to $157 million for our 13 national parks.
The last time our federal government addressed infrastructure needs with America’s national park, Texas-born Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. It’s time to update because investing in our national parks infrastructure just makes good sense: It preserves America’s heritage for future generations, creates infrastructure-related jobs, and protects our Texas communities that depend on park tourism.
As someone who enjoys the outdoors immensely, it is important for all of us to consider that by investing in our national parks, we can help preserve America’s heritage for future generations, protect communities that depend on park tourism, create infrastructure related jobs, and hopefully enjoy a cold craft beer along the way.
Chip McElroy is the owner of Live Oak Brewery.