The National Park System tells the story of remarkable people and events in our nation’s rich history at sites as diverse as Gettysburg National Military Park, Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, and Native American cultural sites like Mesa Verde National Park. Unfortunately, after 100 years of operation and inconsistent funding, the National Park Service has a deferred maintenance backlog of nearly $12 billion and many significant historic sites are at risk of falling into disrepair.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has long sought to assist the National Park Service in reducing the backlog of maintenance at their historic sites. The National Trust, in partnership with The Corps Network, created a program to train more young people in preservation crafts while helping to protect historic cultural sites on public lands. Named “HOPE Crew” for “Hands-On Preservation Experience,” the program links preservation projects to the national youth corps movement. It brings in crew members from diverse backgrounds to work on hundreds of sites, learning preservation craft skills while rehabilitating historic places.
In addition, the National Trust has joined with the Pew Charitable Trusts on their Restore America’s Parks campaign to seek a reliable, dedicated federal funding source that will address the deferred maintenance backlog. Such funding will ensure that we preserve historic buildings and sites, maintain buildings and infrastructure in safe condition, and that parks remain open and accessible so that the public can continue to learn from and experience the stories that tell our nation’s history.
Great news! On August 4, 2020, the President signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act—landmark legislation that will invest up to $9.5 billion to repair historic and other assets of the National Park Service and other federal agencies. The bill also fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually.
The once-in-a-generation investments from this bill will significantly benefit our nation’s historic and cultural resources by providing jobs, boosting economic activity, and preserving iconic historic places. It's an incredible win.