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Addressing the Parks Maintenance Backlog

By Mary Scott Nabers


New funding is available for upcoming projects related to parks and outdoor activities. The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), a program overseen by the Department of the Interior, has $900 million to be used for projects at government facilities on public lands and tribal schools.

The objective is to begin to address Interior's deferred maintenance backlog of more than $22 billion for recreation facilities, dams, water and utility infrastructure, schools and other historic structures.

For fiscal year 2022, the department has selected 63 specific projects, and the funding is now available. Some of the upcoming projects are outlined here:

Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park will have funding for the following projects:

  • $71 million will go to replace the structurally deficient Yellowstone River Bridge. The new bridge project will include the reconstruction of approach roads as well.
  • $52 million will be spent to replace wastewater treatment plants serving the Canyon and Grant Village developed areas. Work will include rehabilitation of wastewater collection and treatment systems.
  • $20 million is earmarked for rehabilitation and upgrades to the Old Faithful water treatment system in addition to the demolition of an abandoned wastewater treatment plant.
  • $9 million will be used to replace the Mammoth Wastewater Collection System.

California: The Golden Gate National Recreation Area will spend $36 million to repair a concrete wharf in the Alcatraz Island National Historic Landmark District. The project includes repair of existing concrete piles, beams and slabs. At Yosemite National Park, about $19 million will be used to rehabilitate The Ahwahnee hotel.

Texas: At Big Bend National Park, approximately $22 million is available to rehabilitate the Chisos Mountain Lodge. Another $54 million will be spent to upgrade park water systems and replace water distribution lines. At the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park, approximately $9 million is available to upgrade the home of the former president.

Indiana: Indiana's state parks and preserves will receive $57 million for improvements statewide. The legislature released $5 million to start the design process for an inn at Potato Creek State Park. The initial work will provide cost projections. The inn is scheduled to be completed by 2023, and it will include more than 100 rooms, an indoor aquatic center, a banquet and meeting space.

Another $52 million has been released for improvements at multiple Department of Natural Resources properties. These projects include resurfacing trails in 20 locations, renovating rooms and HVAC systems in all seven state parks and upgrading playgrounds at 40 sites.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania has 121 state parks and plans to use $500 million for projects related to an effort called "Penn's Parks for All." A report outlining upcoming projects lists the demolition of buildings and aging facilities that have no historical significance. Another initiative aims to link state park trails to nearby communities through greenways and ecological corridors. New types of overnight facilities and possibly a nature lodge at Kinzua Bridge State Park may be addressed as well.

Missouri: Attendance at parks in Missouri rebounded last year. As a result, the governor injected $68 million into the state's park system. The Department of Natural Resources will spend $9.9 million to renovate the existing 12-room lodge at the Shannon County Park and add six cabins on property north of Eminence. At the Edmund Babler State Park, 35 campsites will be upgraded with new sewer, electricity and water connections. Plans call for the $3.1 million renovation of a park lodge. Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park will get two new four-bedroom cabins and four two-bedroom cabins at a cost of $3.5 million. The state also plans to spend $2 million to upgrade the electrical system at Onondaga Cave State Park.

Michigan: Michigan's governor has proposed using $250 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for state park expansions, trail improvements and to address a maintenance backlog. Approximately $26.2 million is earmarked for a new Michigan state park in the city of Flint. The governor has suggested that the early phases could include non-motorized trails, unique playscapes, fishing platforms, canoe and kayak launches into the river and accessible open spaces. The new state park would extend along the Flint River. The construction timeline and funding require legislative approval.

Utah: The legislature has allocated $120 million for the construction of two new state parks: Utahraptor State Park and Lost Creek State Park. The legislature also announced that $83 million is available for the expansion of existing state parks and creation of 500 new campsites and 1,000 new parking spaces. Construction projects at Utahraptor will include two new modern campgrounds, restroom facilities, trailheads for off-highway access and a mountain bike trail system.

West Virginia: The governor has approved $42 million in spending for state park expansion and renovation. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will use the funds for the construction of 230 new campsites, 25 new treehouse cabins, 20 new cabins and new bathhouses for every state park.

New Hampshire: Various funding sources will be tapped for the rehabilitation or replacement of the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in the Franconia Notch State Park. Rehabilitation costs are estimated at $10 million to $15 million, while a total replacement would cost somewhere between $20 million to $30 million. The tramway needs a "new primary system" which includes tram cars, hanger arms, carriage trolleys, electromechanical components, and the motor and braking systems.

Although the new funding is a huge incentive, states that were not selected for the new program funding are using other revenue sources to begin work on the huge backlog of deferred maintenance of public park and outside assets. There will be an abundance of upcoming contracting opportunities throughout the country.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the United States. Her recently released book, "Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America," is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.