There’s a backlog of $88,765,195 in deferred maintenance at Shenandoah National Park. The superintendent at Manassas National Battlefield Park figures $8,924,807 would cover projects he can’t afford now. Prince William Forest Park is more than $24 million behind in maintenance.
The local parks are on a list of maintenance shortfalls at national parks compiled by the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat who represents Virginia; he has introduced the Restore Our Parks Act to provide additional funding. The bill has 40 co-sponsors from both parties in the Senate, according to Warner’s office. It is before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. On June 26, it advanced out of the House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee by a 36 to 2 vote. It has 293 bipartisan cosponsors in the House.
Prince William Forest Park
Prince William Forest Park in Triangle has 15,000 acres of forest. Backlogged maintenance includes failing infrastructure such as water and sewer lines; rehabilitating key historic buildings such as the Cabin Camp 4 theater for expanded public use; reconstructing and repaving campground roads, and repairing historic dams throughout the park, said Tanya M. Gossett, park superintendent.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
At Manassas National Battlefield Park, Superintendent Brandon Bies said the visitor center at the park on the site of two Civil War battles needs rehabilitation.
“It opened in 1942 and it’s never really had a complete rehabilitation,” said Bies. “It’s been added to. It’s showing its age. We started to look at the exhibit space and the physical structure itself” to determine what’s needed, he said.
Bies couldn’t put a dollar figure on the visitor center upgrade.
Elsewhere in the park, the mortar joints of the Stone House on U.S. 29 near the intersection with Sudley Road needs repointing. “Some inappropriate mortar was used before and that caused some damage,” Bies said.
Other buildings within the park need maintenance to some extent.
Money for larger-scale projects come out of a separate project fund. “We have to compete with other parks” for a share of that funding, Bies said.
Besides federal funding, the Manassas Battlefield Trust, a non-profit, raises funds for the park and sponsors educational programs. It’s helped cover the cost of restoring the park landscape to its Civil War appearance and purchase split rail fencing, Bies said.
Shenandoah National Park
Sally Hulbert, public affairs officer at Shenandoah National Park, rattled off a list of maintenance projects that could be done with more funding.
- Building rock walls along Skyline Drive (“Some we’ve been able to get to, others we haven’t,” she said.)
- More picnic tables
- Fire rings (devices that contain campfires)
- Masonry and culvert repairs
- Repaving Skyline Drive, repainting the lane lines
- Clearing growth obscuring viewing areas
- Hiking and horse trail maintenance
- Repainting, repairing more than 300 historical buildings within the 200,000-acre park, to make the buildings accessible for all visitors.
- Improving signs and exhibits
- Upgrading water and wastewater systems
“The public can help by visiting the park. Eighty percent of the admission fee stays at the park” to defray expenses, Hulbert said. The rest goes to parks in the national system that don’t charge a fee.
“The total overall cost of backlogged maintenance projects at NPS sites nationwide now reaches $11.9 billion,” Warner said in the release. “Our national parks are hurting, and with the parks maintenance backlog in Virginia alone totaling $1.1 billion, we cannot afford to delay these repairs any longer.”
The Restore Our Parks Act would not erase the backlog completely. Money to fund park maintenance projects would come from existing revenue from onshore and offshore energy development.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “We are optimistic that the committee will take up the bill soon,” said a Warner staffer.
Reach James Ivancic at email@example.com.