By Luke Weir
UPDATE, Jan. 26: As anticipated, town council endorsed the resolution.
Approval of a resolution that encourages Congress to allocate more resources to the National Park Service will be considered by the Boone Town Council at its next meeting Thursday, January 18.
The resolution up for consideration as item 12 at the town council meeting cites delayed maintenance costs of more than $261 million along North Carolina’s share of the Blue Ridge Parkway as of 2016.
In that same year, an estimated 15.2 million Blue Ridge Parkway visitors spent almost $980 million in surrounding communities, supporting about 15,600 jobs, according to one of the resolution’s provisions.
An attached summary of the $261.7 million in deferred maintenance along the North Carolina segments of the Parkway said roughly 68 percent of the costs are associated with sustaining its paved roads.
“The County of Watauga urges Congress to create a reliable and predictable stream of resources to address deferred maintenance needs in America’s National Park System, and to ensure that federal infrastructure initiatives include provisions to address park maintenance,” the resolve said.
Town manager John Ward submitted the resolution to the council earlier in January, and a similar document was approved by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners last December.
Ahead of the Boone Town Council’s decision to sign off for Watauga County on the resolutions, twelve cities and counties in North Carolina have already signed similar documents urging congress to create a steadier stream of resources for National Park maintenance.
The National Park System had more than 331 million visits in 2016, according to the resolution, and manages over 400 nationally significant sites spanning 84 million acres of land across every state, district and many territories held by the United States.
North Carolina is home to ten such national parks, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, as well as Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests.
Meanwhile, ten out of twelve members chartered by Congress to the National Park System Advisory Board have already resigned before their terms were set to expire this May, citing frustration that not a single meeting was convened since the board’s assembly, according to the Washington Post.
As a whole, the United States scored a dissatisfactory D+ on its infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2017. According to the same report, it would cost roughly $4.59 trillion to improve the nation’s infrastructure to satisfactory over a 10 year period.
President Donald Trump has expressed desire to gain bipartisan support for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, keeping in-line with part of his 2016 campaign platform. Whether a portion of that trillion dollars will go towards infrastructure improvements within the National Parks System, or whether the plan even gains any traction in congress, remains to be seen.