By State Sen. Brian Langley
The 100th anniversary of the National Park Service has come and gone, but as we kick off the start of NPS’s second century, the need for Congress to work together to pass a funding mechanism to address the backlog of deferred maintenance at our parks becomes ever more critical. Like Acadia, most park structures are at or nearing 100 years old, and the longer the repairs and maintenance are prolonged, the worse the problems become with aging infrastructures.
The national parks system, simply stated, is a mirror of American history. They hold invaluable cultural, generational and historical value from what they have meant to our nation as a whole, to what a special place like Acadia has meant to generations of Mainers. The marks they leave on us are indelible and the investments we make in them secure them as invaluable assets for future generations to enjoy and learn from.
We should not forget that these lands were gifted to us by visionaries, so how we handle them speaks volumes about who we are as a nation. Moreover, those prospective land owners who may be looking to gift land in the future will certainly want to know if previous treasures have been allowed to fall into disrepair. That might affect future land transfers that are such valuable assets to future generations.
Last month, a bipartisan bill titled “Restore Our Parks Act” was presented in Washington. This bill would create a restoration fund to help address the maintenance needs that parks across the country set aside every year because they do not have the funding to pursue them.
The bill also would address the $12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance needed across the country’s national parks. Not surprisingly, this bill was co-sponsored by both Maine senators, Collins and King, to which we all should applaud their ability to recognize the intrinsic value of these parks and understanding of the need to keep them vibrant for generations to come.
While our national parks provide us with innumerable cultural benefits, they are also important economic drivers in the communities where they are located. In the case of Maine, Acadia generates over 3 million visitors each year. Visitors who come from Maine, places like Biddeford and Skowhegan, and also from away — from places like New York City and Portland, Ore. — they come not just to see a sunrise on the top of Cadillac Mountain, but also to enjoy local restaurants and take in the rocky seashore on their way to Bar Harbor.
I understand firsthand the economic impact of the folks who come to see Acadia generate in our communities. As the owner of a restaurant in Ellsworth for the last 20 years, we serve locals and tourists alike every night. Tourists who come to our state spend more than $280 million between Bar Harbor and its surrounding communities, supporting more than 4,000 Maine jobs.
Protecting that parks like Acadia continue to provide the cultural, educational and historical value to future generations should be a priority on its own. When you account for the economic impact, it is clear that this is a must-do for Congress.
I would again like to thank our Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King for their dedication and ongoing support of this issue. I think we can all agree that there is a dire need to take care of our history. National parks have seen their funding erode for years and the time has come for Congress to show their commitment to our national parks.
State Sen. Brian Langley (R-Hancock County) of Ellsworth is currently in his fourth and final term representing District 7 in the Maine Senate.