Did you ever wonder how many buildings the Park Service owns? There are 15,466, or nearly 20,000 when you toss in employee housing.
Or, did you ever wonder how many campgrounds there are in the park system? That number would be 1,080.
How 'bout picnic areas? At last count, 491, with 4,853 actual picnic sites.
Number of hiking trails? 5,245, but don't ask me the total mileage involved.
Sewer systems? 1,650, a nightmare (or perhaps job security) for Rotor-Rooter.
And did you ever wonder about the cost to bring all of these "assets," as well as some others, such as roads, water systems, and archaeological sites, up to reasonable snuff?
That, my friends, would be right around $8 billion, a very hefty figure that represents the maintenance backlog across the park system.
This bottom-line figure was trotted out last week during a House subcommittee hearing that focused on the national parks. It represents the culmination of the creation of the Park Service's "Asset Management Program," a management tool that entailed creation of a "Facility Condition Index" that ranks every single asset in a mission to determine what it would cost to bring all of the Park Service's assets up to relative snuff, condition-wise.
A one-page summary presented to the congressfolk says that of the 15,466 buildings, there is $1.3 billion worth of deferred maintenance waiting to be hammered, nailed, and painted. Of the campgrounds, it would take but $60 million to spruce them up to acceptable condition.
The trails, though, well, it would take an incredible $469 MILLION to wipe out the long overdue trails maintenance, and I'm guessing that figure was calculated before Mount Rainier, Glacier and Olympic endured that little rain storm back in November.
Now, the biggest chunk of deferred maintenance is tied up in roads. The Park Service counts 7,115 roads (both paved and unpaved) in its system, and says it would take $4.3 billion to bring them up to decent condition.
Back in January 2006 I talked with Bruce Shaeffer, the Park Service's long-serving comptroller, about the agency's maintenance backlog. At the time, he guessed it was somewhere between $4.5 billion and $9 billion. Unfortunately, as this latest report spells out, the actual number is much closer to $9 billion than $4.5 billion.
Which makes me wonder just a little why the agency is so focused on spending $3 billion through the highly touted National Park Centennial Initiative to build new stuff that it won't be able to maintain?