A bipartisan coalition in Congress is renewing a call to address billions of dollars in needed repairs to the nation’s deteriorating national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and the National Mall.
“Even in a dysfunctional Washington, this should be a no-brainer,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., outside the Capitol on Wednesday after speaking with lawmakers from both parties.
The lawmakers support legislation aimed at addressing a maintenance backlog at hundreds of national parks that’s estimated to be close to $12 billion. The needs in Virginia alone are estimated to be more than $1 billion.
Warner said that the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which runs through Northern Virginia and the District, could use hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance and repairs. He noted the recent 10-foot-deep sinkhole that caused a closure of the northbound lanes of the parkway for several days and will require another shutdown to fully fix.
“The national capital area and America deserves better than a sinkhole on, frankly, one of America’s premier roads — the G.W. Parkway,” Warner said.
In Maryland, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway was closed earlier this year after an unprecedented number of potholes turned it into a virtual moonscape.
The many historic areas of Virginia that need more maintenance money include Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Prince William Forest Park and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.
The grounds of many D.C. monuments are also in need of repair, including the sea wall around the Tidal Basin.
Lawmakers who support the Restore Our Parks Act say parks all across the country are in need of major funding to shore up a host of issues.
Even the Grand Canyon is in need of hundreds of millions of dollars for, among other things, a deteriorating water pipeline that provides drinking water for its millions of visitors each year.
Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio and a co-sponsor of the legislation, said his fellow Republicans are seeking not to expand parkland, but to take care of what has already been set aside for the public.
“If you don’t fix it now, the cost escalates,” Portman said. “It’s about stewardship for what we have and making sure that we are taking care of it.”
The legislation calls for using money that would come from existing revenue the government receives from on- and off-shore energy development. Over the next five years, that would provide $6.5 billion.
Similar House legislation now has more than 200 co-sponsors, lawmakers said.
Warner expressed hope that the legislation can move forward, with support from members of both parties.
“This is a debt that we owe to our kids and grandkids,” Warner said. ”And if we don’t do this, then shame on us. Because we owe our kids and our grandkids — preserving that history and legacy.”