Congress grills National Park Service on visitor problems
Recent federal laws – like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Actand Great American Outdoors Act – have provided hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding for the National Park Service. Yet some members of Congress say the agency isn’t moving fast enough on construction projects and improvements for visitors.
During a recent committee hearing, several House members questioned the agency about overcrowded trails, reservation limits, increasing fees and closures that they say have been too common in recent years.
“Americans continue to love their national parks, as they should, but the management stinks,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. “Bathrooms are dirty, windows are broken and trails across the country are closed.”
Mike Reynolds, deputy director for Congressional and external relations, testified that recent funding will take a long time to make its full impact on the agency – and as projects begin, temporary closures and delays will be necessary. Still, he told the House committee that long-term progress is happening.
Reynolds also said that many of the problems with crowds and trail overuse are at extremely popular parks like Zion and Yellowstone. He said the agency is encouraging people to travel to lesser-known destinations.
“We have this phenomenon of social media helping to amplify certain places and people show up,” Reynolds said. “We need to add to that to let people understand the other gems that they can visit.”
Congress will continue to evaluate the parks service as it seeks another budget increase in the next fiscal year.
In the meantime, the agency is waiving all entrance fees on Friday, Aug. 4, at its sites.
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