For years I have enjoyed our national parks for hiking, camping, exploring and sightseeing. We are fortunate in Minnesota to have five national park sites, including Voyageurs, Pipestone, Grand Portage and portions of the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers.
Visits to national parks are at record highs. Last year 1.2 million people visited national parks in Minnesota, and they spent more than $64 million in our local communities, which created 924 jobs.
Unfortunately, increased visitation, aging facilities and inconsistent federal funding have taken a toll. Right now, national parks in Minnesota need $17.8 million for infrastructure repairs. Crumbling historic markers, outdated electrical systems and deteriorating trails and roads are now common.
The good news is that Congress is considering bills to create dedicated funding for park maintenance needs. The House of Representatives’ Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act and the Senate’s Restore Our Parks Act would direct federal funds each year to ensure that our national parks are maintained and accessible for all visitors.
In addition to fixing these American treasures, this investment would help the state’s job market. A recent study commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that over 200 infrastructure-related jobs would be created or supported in Minnesota if Congress invested in repairs to national park sites.
As a proud Minnesotan, I am delighted that our state is home to some of America’s finest natural and cultural landscapes. These national park sites offer us places to contemplate the outdoors or learn about our shared history. Because of that, they are too critical to neglect. I hope Congress will see these bills through to final passage so that our national parks can be enjoyed for generations to come.