National parks in Illinois and across the nation may be a step closer to getting much needed repairs.
The House Committee on Natural Resources has approved the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (HR 6510), which would use revenue from energy production on public lands to address the $11 billion maintenance backlog at national parks.
Marcia Argust, director of the Restore America's Parks Campaign for The Pew Charitable Trusts, explains these spaces aren't just national treasures, but also the backbones of many local economies.
"While Illinois has only a few park units, they contribute over $20 million to the state's economy, and almost 200 local jobs are created due to those parks," she points out.
In 2017, national parks in Illinois needed about $16 million in repairs to help preserve historic assets, including the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and Pullman National Monument.
Saturday was National Public Lands Day.
As executive director of Carbondale Main Street in southern Illinois, Meghan Cole works on historic preservation. She contends that repairing parks now is crucial to preserve them for future generations.
She adds nearby communities also benefit from tourist spending.
"People stay in local hotels, they get coffee or gas in going to these places," Cole points out. "And they really do spend money in these communities as they are travelling, either nationally or internationally, into these parks."
And while Congress hasn't made a significant investment to upgrade national parks in 50 years, Argust is hopeful the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act will be passed by the House.
"This action is landmark, bipartisan legislation, in a committee that is typically at odds over public lands issues," she states. "And it shows that protecting our parks and local economies transcends politics."
The legislation calls for national parks to receive up to $1.3 billion annually for the next five years.