For many years, I have enjoyed our national parks for hiking, camping, exploring and sightseeing. In North Carolina, we are fortunate to have 14 national park sites, including the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Visitation to national parks is at record highs. Last year, 18 million people visited national parks in North Carolina, which meant a $2 billion economic boost to our local communities.
Unfortunately, increased visitation, aging facilities and inconsistent federal funding have taken a toll. Right now, national parks in North Carolina need $459 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 Crumbling historic markers, outdated electrical systems and deteriorating trails and roads are now common.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 legislation to create dedicated funding for park maintenance needs. A proposal that includes the Restore Our Parks Act could be coming to a vote in the Senate [soon]. It would direct federal funds each year to ensure that our national parks are maintained and accessible for all visitors. Sen. Thom Tillis and nine members of North Carolina’s delegation have pushed this legislation forward. Sen. Richard Burr’s support would be welcomed.
I am delighted that our state is home to some of America’s finest natural and cultural landscapes. National parks tell our America story and offer so much to our quality of life. They are too critical to neglect. I hope Congress passes the Restore Our Parks Act so our national parks can be enjoyed now and for generations to come.
— Jasmine Littleson
Editor’s note: This letter was submitted before concerns about the coronavirus pandemic began affecting daily life in this area.