Fix Our Parks: 6 Preservation Success Stories in National Parks

The National Park Service (NPS) maintains a network of 417 parks and sites that protect some of our nation's most spectacular historic, cultural, and natural resources. But after 100 years of operation and inconsistent public funding, the NPS faces a deferred maintenance backlog estimated at $11.6 billion—of which approximately 47 percent is attributed to historic assets.

In the absence of dedicated funding like that proposed in the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 1225), these historic and cultural sites are at risk of permanent damage or loss, but there are complementary strategies to help tackle deferred maintenance. Below are six examples of historic sites at national parks that have found solutions to help abate the problem of deferred maintenance.

  1. Photo By: Duncan Kendall

    Gateway National Recreation Area

    Gateway National Recreation Area interprets America's largest port, its oldest surviving lighthouse, and its first municipal airport. Time and harsh coastal conditions have caused severe deferred maintenance, but Gateway used both historic leasing and HOPE Crew projects to help address these needs.

  2. Photo By: Flickr/Garen M./CC BY-NC 2.0

    Valley Forge National Historic Park

    After a harsh winter in Valley Forge, the Continental Army emerged from their encampment in June 1778 a more united and disciplined fighting force. Today, the park utilizes both long- and short-term leases, and a multi-year plan enables the National Park Service to identify future leasing projects that benefit the park.

  3. Photo By: Susana Raab

    Shenandoah National Park

    Just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park encompasses 200,000 acres and eight Virginia counties. Its Skyland Stable, constructed in 1939, was in need of repairs when a HOPE Crew team rehabilitated the stables' exterior and constructing new perimeter fencing.

  4. Photo By: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore/Flickr/CC BY-NC ND 2.0

    Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

    Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is possibly best known for its five Century of Progress homes, which were a part of the Century of Progress International Exposition for the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago. Preservation nonprofit Indiana Landmarks partnered with the National Park Service to lease all five houses, four of which are subleased to private residents. The House of Tomorrow remains, and Indiana Landmarks is currently seeking a partner to rehabilitate the home in exchange for a long-term lease.

  5. Hot Springs National Park

    Every year, 1.5 million people visit "The American Spa" in Hot Springs, Arkansas. A federal investment of $18 million helped stabilize the remaining eight historic bathhouses, making them “tenant-ready” and attractive to potential lessees. Today, only one bathhouse remains to be leased.

  6. Photo By: Syuji Honda/

    Golden Gate National Recreation Area

    One of the largest urban parks in the world, Golden Gate National Recreation Area protects significant historic, cultural, natural, scenic, and recreational resources. The park first entered into formal historic lease agreements in the 2000s. Now, Golden Gate has approximately 30 leasing partners who help to maintain and fund the park while creating new opportunities for visitors.

Historic leasing, or an agreement where the National Park Service maintains ownership of a historic building while a lessee has responsibility for the preservation and maintenance needs, as well as HOPE Crew (Hands-On Preservation Experience and other programs, helped save these significant places. But dedicated funding will still be necessary to address the $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog of the National Park Service.

Support dedicated funding for our national parks by asking your Representative to co-sponsor and support the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 1225). Reliable and dedicated funding like that provided in these bills would enable the National Park Service to maintain and repair places that preserve our nation's history for future generations.

Each year, America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places sheds light on important examples of our nation’s heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.

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