In this time of uncertainty, many Americans spend time outdoors to improve their mental health. While Shenandoah National Park has been closed during the COVID-19 crisis, it will reopen at the appropriate time and play its role in providing refuge for Virginians and tourists alike. Its opening also will help jumpstart the regional economy, as visitors begin to fill the park, eat at nearby restaurants, and spend the night at local hotels and bed and breakfasts.
But when the park reopens, its more than $88 million deferred maintenance backlog might turn off some visitors. Fortunately, Congress has an opportunity to lend a hand to the park and others across Virginia by passing the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation currently sitting in the U.S. Senate. If passed, the bill would use non-taxpayer revenue to fund repair projects at national parks while also fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a popular recreational program.
The projects would include repairs to buildings, roads, walking and hiking paths, and visitor centers, among other maintenance needs. Passing this legislation would create and support significant jobs across the country with Virginia standing to see more than 10,000 jobs if this legislation is passed.
As Congress gets back to work over the summer and continues to address ways to restart the economy, the Great American Outdoors Act is one such piece of legislation that is ready to help our parks and the ailing local economies.