National parks preserve history

To the editor:

Recently the Houghton City Council passed a resolution asking Congress to address the backlog of maintenance needs in our national parks. We joined over 180 gateway communities across America that have taken similar action to protect nearby national parks.

Michigan has seven national parks sites that receive over 2.7 million visitors annually! The Keweenaw Peninsula is blessed with two of these sites, Isle Royale National Park and the Keweenaw National Historical Park. The former offers unparalleled solitude and adventure for backpackers, hikers, boaters, kayakers, canoeists, and scuba divers. The latter preserves and shares 7,000 years of copper mining history, from native miners and traders to investors and immigrants who developed thriving industries that still affect our community today.

However, because of years of aging facilities and inconsistent congressional funding, our national parks have a backlog of deferred maintenance totaling $11.6 billion. The need includes fixing trails, historic buildings, weathered monuments, deteriorating campgrounds, and outdated water and electrical systems – all things that can make park sites inaccessible and unsafe. And the effects of neglect go beyond park boundaries. The local economies of Houghton and nearby communities are affected when parks don’t receive the upkeep they need.

The good news is that in the past couple weeks a bipartisan coalition in Congress has introduced legislation that would establish dedicated yearly funding to repair and rehabilitate our national parks. Over the next ten years it would put roughly $6.5 billion into maintenance needs in our parks and public lands, investing in our communities, creating and supporting jobs, and preserving our parks for generations to come. I want to thank our own Rep. JackBergman who has joined 50 other members of Congress in cosponsoring the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act.

Our national parks preserve our history, protect our land, honor our veterans, boost our local economy, and provide places of recreation for millions of visitors each year. It’s time Congress stepped up to invest in fixing our national parks so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.