Tom Wharton, The Salt Lake Tribune
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, wants national parks to be a priority in any economic stimulus package.
While declining to propose a specific dollar amount, Matheson said money is needed to rebuild roads, bridges, boardwalks, trails, visitors centers, restrooms, historic structures and maintenance facilities. The parks have a backlog of $8.5 billion in maintenance projects.
In a letter to Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Matheson urged that parks projects be put on a fast track.
"We've got to find opportunities for projects that are ready to go," he said Friday. "It is no secret that there is a huge backlog of maintenance projects for national parks that have been defined, vetted, prioritized and are ready to go right now."
Matheson said many of the 11 million people without jobs in the U.S. are blue collar workers in the construction industry. Investing in infrastructure, including national parks, would help put many of them back to work.
"National parks are located in the more rural areas of various states," he said. "This would create construction in those areas while there would be transportation jobs in the more urban areas. It provides a nice balance."
One specific project Matheson would like to see completed is renovating or rebuilding the visitor center at Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal. The center has been closed for several years because it's too dangerous for public use.
While Matheson wouldn't attach a dollar figure to the entire parks proposal, the National Parks and Conservation Association said the economic stimulus proposal in the House calls for $2.25 billion in spending on national parks.
"We are cautiously hopeful that the amounts included in the House version of the stimulus package will prevail in the final bill because it's a win-win situation," said Tom Hill, the organization's legislative representative. "First and foremost, all of the projects and work that will be undertaken with that money will create jobs. ... The other win is that it will get things done that have been neglected in the parks for years in a way people in the future will benefit from."
Back to home page
Last Updated: January 31, 2009