Guest Opinion - Addressing Park Service maintenance backlog would boost Montana jobs

By: 
CHUCK DENOWH

 

 

Investing resources to address the massive deferred maintenance backlog in our National Park System has the potential to add nearly 2,500 jobs in Montana and over 110,000 nationally, according to a new analysis commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts and prepared by Cadmus Group.

“Maintenance funding just hasn’t kept pace with the increasing demands on infrastructure in the Parks as we’ve seen record visitation,” said Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld.  “The result now is that that maintenance backlog gets a little bigger each year.  It’s really at a point where we need to address it or it will start to have an effect on the quality of the experience in our Parks.

This past year saw record attendance in both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, with over 4 and 3 million visitors respectively.  The backlog of deferred maintenance is at an all time high as well, with National Park System (NPS) records indicating that a total of $252 million of infrastructure projects on Park property in Montana have been deferred due to funding shortages.  Nationwide, the deferred maintenance backlog totals over $11.3 billion.

The study commissioned by Pew Charitable Trusts, titled Restoring Parks, Creating Jobs, was designed to find out how many jobs would be created if that deferred maintenance backlog were addressed.  Deferred maintenance refers to work that was scheduled to be completed at a specified interval, but was put off due to a lack of funding.

“I think we should be encouraged by the magnitude of the number of jobs that would be created in Montana if funding was invested in addressing the maintenance backlog,” said Cary Hegreberg, executive director of the Montana Contractors’ Association.  “This would be a significant boost to Montana’s economy.”

The National Park System maintains over 10,000 miles of roads and 18,000 miles of trails.  There are over 28,000 buildings on NPS properties, some of them are  buildings with historical significance. 

In addition to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, the NPS maintains several other properties in Montana, including the Big Hole National Battlefield near Dillon; the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area near Hardin; the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site near Sidney; and the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site near Deer Lodge.  All of these NPS sites have assets for which maintenance has been deferred.

“Montana is so fortunate to have its rich history preserved and put on display by our National Parks Service, but we need to make sure those treasures are taken care of,” said Muhlfeld.  “It’s time a dedicated funding source was put in place by Congress to make sure those needs are met.”

 

Chuck Denowh is a consultant with the Montana Group.

Category:

Poll

When do you think the snow will finally be melted in Lewistown?