On this National Holiday celebrating our nation’s independence, tens of thousands of campers and vacationers are going to be visiting one of the most glorious aspects of the American Dream — the hundreds of national parks scattered throughout the country. In some families, this has been a tradition going back a hundred years.
The National Park System has more structures to support and maintain than any other federal department outside of the Defense Department. Roads, cabins, beaches, fire patrols, ranger activities, latrines, picnic spots, and so on, account for a yearly budget that is in excess of twelve billion dollars.
While taxes pay for a good portion of that upkeep, it is the fee revenues that come directly from the parks themselves that is key to refurbishing and updating the many amenities park visitors have come to expect. This past year, when the federal government shut down, and the national parks shut down, the Parks System lost an estimated eight million dollars in much-needed revenue — meaning that many urgent projects in dozens of parks had to be put on hold.
This in turn means that when you visit a national park this year, you may see facilities that are in need of a face lift or have been shuttered because their upkeep has become too expensive. The least affected national parks are those with extensive wilderness areas — so the next time you want to visit a national park, look for one with a large wilderness area; it will probably be the best maintained place you can spend your vacation in the United States.