WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with David Vela, President Trump’s nominee to be the Director of the National Park Service (NPS) to discuss the need to address the $12 billion NPS maintenance backlog. Due to years of chronic underfunding, the Park Service has deferred maintenance on tens of thousands of visitor centers, rest stops, trails, and campgrounds, as well as thousands of miles of roads and countless bridges. In Virginia, the backlog has grown to more than $1 billion and the Commonwealth now ranks third among all states in total deferred maintenance, trailing only California and the District of Columbia.
Sen. Warner is the author of the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan bill that would address the growing maintenance backlog. Over the years, Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for protecting NPS infrastructure, originally introducing the legislation that became the basis for this consensus proposal. The Restore Our Parks Act is the product of months of bipartisan discussions among senators who had previously introduced legislation and the Trump Administration. The bipartisan bill is supported by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Outdoor Industry Association, and dozens of additional conservation and recreation organizations.
“For years, I’ve been sounding the alarm on the need to address the growing NPS maintenance backlog and urging the Senate to pass our bipartisan bill,” said Sen. Warner. “I was pleased to hear that Mr. Vela understands the devastating effects this chronic underfunding can have on an already old and crumbling NPS infrastructure and has vowed to be a partner so we can work with the Administration to get this done. If confirmed, I look forward to working with Mr. Vela to draw down the maintenance backlog and find a long-term maintenance funding structure for the Park Service that preserves our national treasures for generations to come.”
Virginia contains 22 national parks and affiliated areas that are spread throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, the Park Service maintains over 120 National Historic Landmarks throughout Virginia, including Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Monticello, and the State Capitol Building. In 2017, over 24 million individuals from around the world visited national parks in Virginia, spending over $1 billion. National parks in Virginia helped support more than 15,000 jobs and contributed over $1.4 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy.
On August 31, 2018, President Trump announced David Vela as his nominee to lead the National Park Service. If confirmed, Mr. Vela would be the first Hispanic Director of the National Park Service. His nomination was formally submitted to the Senate on September 6, 2018. A confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled.