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Reader Participation Day: What Needs Fixing In The National Parks?


The latest estimate for the National Park Service's maintenance backlog stands at $12 billion, though that number might be padded just a bit by lofty renovation plans. Still, there's a lot to be fixed around the parks.

Roads that are potholed, buildings that could use more than just a little paint, electrical systems that were designed for the 20th, not 21st, century. There are chairs that are not sturdy, door frames that are cracked, tiles that need to be replaced, asphalt trails in front-country areas that are crumbling, boardwalks that could use some replacement boards. And that's just the short list.

What maintenance needs have you seen in your travels about the National Park System? Let's build a list of what needs fixing out there.


$74K on weapons and ammo seems a bit excessive. 203K on signs is beyond excessive and most we're "closure" related.
They collected millions in permit fees but could not afford to pay for lifeguards, something IS wrong here.

According to, Hatteras spent $203K on signs from FY09-FY13. The park spent $74K on weapons and ammo during that same time period. That spending represents 1% of the $27M that NPS contracted in goods and services for Hatteras.

The real problem is the continued mismanagement. The NPS priorities are so screwed up that they have allowed this problem to grow out of control. From the top of the DOI and all way down we need a serious personnel purge.
The priorities I have seen are LE and regulation related, purchases for new guns, tazers, cameras, and "no" signs. Maintenance, visitors and visitor services are last on the list.

Meanwhile, plenty of wasteful, flavor of the month, pet projects are fully funded. The Pro Ranger program first comes to mind as it attempts in their own words to 'create the rangers of the future' while people who are ready to hit the ground running get bypassed so they can expend scarce resources on a program to create a whole other set of candidates who fit the PC criteria.

But hey, I guess creating some new wonderful "innovative" program looks a lot better on a resume than just making sure the basics, like maintaining trails, are taken care of.

As a form of cyclic maintenance, a thorough housecleaning of NPS management should be at the top of the list:

What needs fixing? Let me count the ways.

In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Boogerman Trail, one of most popular trails in the park, has been missing at least four bridges. With the new (acting) superintendent, there's a chance that the main bridge will be replaced. The other three on Caldwell Fork go across smaller streams and may wait a while.

Another popular trail, Ramsey Cascades, is missing a crucial bridge. I'm leading a Friends of the Smokies hike on the trail in May. I sure hope it is fixed by then. I have another candidate hike in my back pocket but Ramsey Cascades is something to see.

The three parks in St. Croix, the Virgin islands,  could use a lot more attention. See /2014/02/exploring-parks-christiansted-national-historic-site24599

And Tuskegee National Historic Site where I'm going next could at least have enough personnel to answer the phone.                           

It's probably safe to say that just about everything in our parks needs at least some attention.

But completely aside from that, while looking at information about Prehistoric Trackways, I noticed a little tab at the bottom of the page that caught my attention. NO FEAR ACT. Interesting.

Here is a link:

Maybe someone should pass this around in some NPS offices.

At one NPS site the paint on the employee housing is in such poor condition that if you happen to brush against it, it comes off on your clothing like chalk dust. Through some inexpiable bureaucratic ineptness rent was not deducted for several employee housing units for more than a year resulting in a loss of maybe $15,000 to the park. When those in authority were told by seasonal employees that the rent wasn't being deducted from their pay they were told 'not to worry that they would not have to pay before their seasonal terms ended.'

The mattresses in these housing units were in such sorry condition that they caused back injuries to employees.

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