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Sen. Coburn: Parks Service Needs to Spend Money on Popular Attractions

Image: Sen. Coburn: Parks Service Needs to Spend Money on Popular Attractions

By Courtney Coren   |   Wednesday, 30 Oct 2013 12:13 PM

The National Historic Site marking Bill Clinton's birthplace attracted an average of 24 visitors a day last year, costing the National Parks Service $33 per person.

But facilities at the country's popular national treasures such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Independence Hall are falling into disrepair due to lack of funding, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn claims.

The cost of the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace National Historic Site is just one of many examples of waste that Coburn describes in a report he released Tuesday, "PARKED: How Congress' Misplaced Priorities Are Trashing Our National Treasures."

The misspending, he says, is not just spent remembering Democrats, the Oklahoman said. Congress has spent $146,000 over the last two years on the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site in Dixon, Ill. even though it doesn't officially own it yet, due to an appraisal dispute.

This is all while some of the most popular national parks that attract tourists in the millions sit in much needed repair. In 2012, the top 10 most visited parks "had a deferred maintenance backlog of $2.6 billion."

"Frequent ruptures of a corroded water pipeline at Grand Canyon National Park require creek water to be used to flush toilets," Coburn wrote. "A leaky water system in Yellowstone National Park threatens the health of visitors and employees while tripping hazards created by dilapidated sidewalks at Independence Hall National Historical Park cause up to $2 million per year in tort claims."

The National Park Service needs a total of $11.5 billion to get caught up on the backlogged repairs and general maintenance for all of the sites it oversees.

However, Coburn claims, it is not because of a lack of funds, but a "lack of priorities set by Congress."

"Instead of addressing the urgent needs of our premier parks and memorials, Congress has instead focused on establishing new parks and diverting funds to local sites that are not even part of any national park," the Oklahoma senator wrote.

The repair problem has not stopped Congress from trying to create more national parks, Coburn noted that "some members of Congress are proposing the creation of a national park on the moon . . . even though no one has walked on the moon in 40 years."

Congress has a $3 billion budget allocated for the Park Service, "yet, only half of the funds appropriated by Congress even go to the park superintendents, while the national headquarters and regional offices consume more of the NPS budget than facility maintenance projects," he points out.

According to Coburn, these problems existed long before government sequestration or the government shutdown added budget strains.

"With each new park and program diluting limited resources, Congress has been effectively sequestering our national parks for decades," he added.

Congress is charged with funding and maintaining 401 park units, 27,000 historic structures, 2,461 national historic landmarks, 582 national natural landmarks, 49 national heritage areas, and over 84 million acres of land.

Coburn is calling on Congress "to reform the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) to augment the funds available to address the deferred maintenance backlog before reauthorizing the program in December 2014."

Related stories:

Park Ranger: National Park Service Wants Public to 'Feel Pain' Of Cuts

Tom Coburn: Taxpayers Bilked by Broken Disability System

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