Na­tional parks to re­ceive $53M for up­keep, projects

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By Erin Dou­glas

ESTES PARK» De­spite a pro­posed 2018 bud­get that slashes funds for the na­tional park sys­tem, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is send­ing some needed funds in the parks’ di­rec­tion.

The De­part­ment of In­te­rior on Satur­day an­nounced $53 mil­lion for high­pri­or­ity main­te­nance and in­fra­struc­ture projects at 42 na­tional parks — in­clud­ing $200,000 for Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park.

The funds were al­lo­cated to re­duce de­ferred main­te­nance on the Al­lu­vial Fan Trail, which was dev­as­tated by a 2013 flood. In to­tal, the park will re­ceive $400,000, be­cause the Rocky Moun­tain Con­ser­vancy is match­ing the fed­eral funds with an­other $200,000.

“No one is more pas­sion­ate about our pub­lic lands than I am,” said Sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior Ryan Zinke, who an­nounced the al­lo­ca­tion dur­ing a visit to Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park on Satur­day morn­ing. “I’m an ad­vo­cate: Never sell, never trans­fer. But, let’s make sure that our pub­lic lands are man­aged well and the ex­pe­ri­ence in our parks are main­tained.”

Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park had $75 mil­lion in de­ferred main­te­nance projects in 2016, and the park sys­tem as a whole had $11.3 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Na­tional Park Ser­vice re­ports.

Of the $53 mil­lion grant, Congress con­trib­uted $20 mil­lion. More than 50 park part­ners teamed up to match the grant with $33 mil­lion.

Af­ter a fed­eral hir­ing freeze from Jan­uary un­til April, many na­tional park ser­vice ad­vo­cates were con­cerned with job cuts to the agency. And, in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pro­posed bud­get, the na­tional parks would lose $400 mil­lion in fis­cal year 2018.

Zinke ap­peared to speak in con­tra­dic­tion to the pro­posed bud­get, ad­vo­cat­ing dur­ing his re­marks for “front line” hir­ing for the parks and fund­ing for in­fra­struc­ture.

“My job is to high­light the im­por­tance of our na­tional parks,” Zinke said. “I think we’re too short on the front lines of our park per­son­nel.”

The sec­re­tary has pre­vi­ously de­fended Trump’s agency cuts — in­clud­ing $1.6 bil­lion to his own de­part­ment — say­ing he sup­ports the pres­i­dent’s ef­forts to balance the bud­get.

Zinke is in Colorado this week­end for the an­nual Western Con­ser­va­tive Sum­mit, where he and other Repub­li­can fig­ures spoke to sup­port­ers in Den­ver. The sec­re­tary said he spoke with the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil (ALEC), a con­ser­va­tive free mar­ket pol­icy group that in­flu­ences pol­icy agen­das across the coun­try, and told them that he does not sup­port the trans­fer­ring of pub­lic land to the pri­vate sec­tor — some­thing ALEC has long lob­bied for.

“We kindly agree to dis­agree on this point,” Zinke said. “But, I think Amer­ica is be­hind me with a love of our pub­lic lands, and the pres­i­dent is as well.”

While the $200,000 to Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park will help to re­store the Al­lu­vial Fan Trail, a few park vis­i­tors called it a drop in the bucket com­pared with the $75 mil­lion that Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park needs.

“It’s fine to give us some money, but in the mean­time he’s cut­ting mil­lions and this lit­tle drop in the bucket that he’s propos­ing to spread around all the parks is not go­ing to mean much at all,” said Bar­bara Werner, a long­time Estes Park res­i­dent and park sup­porter who came to the park Satur­day to protest. “It’s not re­ally sup­port­ing the parks the way they should be.”

Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park at­ten­dance rises ev­ery year. The park had 4.5 mil­lion vis­i­tors in 2016, and vis­its in April were 21 per­cent higher than last year. It was the fourth most-vis­ited na­tional park in 2016.

Dur­ing the an­nounce­ment, Zinke ad­vo­cated in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments driven by pub­lic and pri­vate part­ner­ships.

He said he wanted to in­cen­tivize longterm in­vest­ments by pri­vate part­ners through projects such as Wi-fi and pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

Zinke said his de­part­ment would an­nounce a plan this week for the $11.3 bil­lion in de­ferred main­te­nance projects.

“As we look at (pub­lic and pri­vate part­ner­ship) go­ing for­ward, it’s go­ing to be, I think, ter­rific on what we’re go­ing to do in the next cou­ple years,” Zinke said.

Andy Col­well, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post

U.S. Sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior Ryan Zinke, left, and U.S. Sen. Cory Gard­ner of Colorado meet with the me­dia Satur­day af­ter a news con­fer­ence at Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park’s Al­lu­vial Fan Trail area.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.