From coast to coast, the work is already underway. Around the United States, improvements both large and small are making our national parks safer, more efficient, and releasing their full potential. Many smaller projects are receiving funding first, like the historical grills at America’s newest national park: New River Gorge.
And it’s all courtesy of legislation by Congress in 2020.
“The Great American Outdoors Act overall, with the amount of funding available, offers us really a once in a generation opportunity to take care of some of the large projects, the large needs, of the national park service,” says Mike Caldwell, National Park Service acting associate director of park planning, facilities and lands in a statement.
To do so, The Great American Outdoor Act dedicates up to $1.6 billion every single year for the next five years. The goal? Get to work on the extensive maintenance that’s been pushed back for decades. According to the Department of the Interior, critical projects in our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas are all set to benefit if they haven’t already. Tribal schools, too, are named.
A swath of projects scheduled for the next year will tackle park infrastructure issues. Many NPS roads are in dire need of repaving. Leaky buildings/roofs are a widespread problem, too.
Other projects, however, are “to prevent possible loss of life.” Such as a large-scale repair of the failing left abutment of the Potomac River’s 146-year-old masonry dam in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Parks to Benefit Greatly From Outdoor Act
Some of America’s most iconic parks are set to benefit from the $1.6 billion a year, too. Grand Canyon National Park, for example, will have vacant structures brought up to code for the park to use.
Then it’s onto a new water line for the immense park; one that serves over 6 million visitors and residents per year. It’s long, long overdue, as the current waterline has broken more than 85 times in the past 10 years, Fox News cites. Grand Canyon spokeswoman Joelle Baird adds that the park is expecting funding in 2023 for the pipeline.
“It’s going to be a very large undertaking but ultimately is going to have huge benefits to the infrastructure and water delivery to the entire park,” Baird says.
It’s no small task, either. A conservative estimate to replace the water line tops $100 million. This pales in comparison to the total spent on repairing the old one over the past decade, however.
Over in Yosemite National Park, the Outdoors Act will replace high-voltage transmission lines. They, and the towers they’re on, are literally falling apart. The system went up in the mid-1930s to provide power to all of Yosemite Valley. By the time new ones go up, the old lines will have given just shy of a century of service.