Utah’s national parks may get updating, more staff

After years of budget cuts, Congress is considering a proposed spending plan that could help pay for repairs to deteriorating trails and outdated visitor centers, as well as hiring more staff at Grand Canyon and other national parks. Photo credit: National Park Service.

<span>SALT LAKE CITY – The five National Parks in Utah and others around the U.S. could get some much-needed maintenance and additional staff if Congress approves a proposed budget under consideration. </span>

<span>John Garder, budget and appropriations director with the National Parks Conservation Association, says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is asking Congress to increase National Park Service funding by more than $400 million, an increase of more than 10 percent. </span>

<span>After years of recession-related budget cuts, Garder says the parks are in pretty rough shape and need help.</span>

<span>”Improvements to trails,” says Garder. “Restoring trails that are crumbling, improvements to visitor centers where they have out-of-date programs, leaking roofs, bathrooms that are decaying and other needs.”</span>

<span>Garder says some parks have deteriorated to the point of causing dangerous conditions for visitors. He says there is more than $30 million of “deferred maintenance” at Bryce Canyon alone. Similar circumstances exist at Arches Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Zion nationals parks.</span>

<span>Garder says maintaining and improving the parks also is critical because they are huge economic drivers. He says the numbers from 2013 tell the story.</span>

<span>”In Utah, nearly nine million visitors spent nearly $600 million and that supported more than 9,000 private-sector jobs,” he says.</span>

<span>Countrywide, Garder says national parks contributed about $27 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013 and supported nearly a quarter of a million jobs.</span>

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