Tackling delayed maintenance and improvement projects at America’s national parks is a good use of federal stimulus money.
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Wednesday that it would use $750 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on more than 750 park projects across the country. The projects not only will stabilize and protect some of the nation’s most loved parks and monuments, but will provide much-needed jobs during the current economic downturn.
These are not make-work projects but are long-standing priorities that had previously been identified by the National Park Service. Many of the projects likely have been on the list for a long time, awaiting funding that would allow them to be completed. That time is now.
Some of the projects are well-known national treasures like the $30.5 million set aside to repair the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the $8.8 million to help stabilize structures on Ellis Island and the $5.5 million to repair Independence Hall. Other projects involve less notable sites such as the $105,000 that will be used to update heating equipment at the Fort Scott National Historical Site in Kansas.
In some cases, the projects could produce long-term financial benefits for park operations. For instance, $14 million will be used to install solar panels at 26 national parks. Yosemite reportedly expects its $5.6 million project to reduce its electric bill by about
The money will be used to replace water lines, rehabilitate trails and repair buildings in 48 states. The projects are expected to create between 30,000 and 40,000 jobs starting this summer.
The size of the federal stimulus plan is disconcerting to many Americans, but targeting that money toward one-time expenditures like the parks projects is the best possible way to create jobs without committing the nation to new programs that will require additional funding for years to come.
The Park Services plan is much like the Civilian Conservation Corps that put so many people back to work during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many of the projects completed by the CCC still are part of the American landscape today. Hopefully the legacy of the upcoming work in the national parks will last as long.