You may have heard that there’s a place in far West Texas where the night skies are dark as coal and rivers carve temple-like canyons in ancient limestone. This isn’t simply folklore and is actually located right here in the 23rd District of Texas.
I have the distinct honor of representing in Congress a total of eight national parks and historic sites, including Big Bend National Park described above, and our San Antonio Missions. It is a top priority of mine to make sure our parks remain beautiful and accessible for South and West Texas families to enjoy for generations to come.
Unfortunately, our parks are in dire need of repairs. In fact, last year in Texas alone, the National Park Service faced over $167 million in backlogged maintenance projects, including repairs to roads, visitor facilities, trails and other park structures.
In many of these cases, buildings are crumbling, roads are inaccessible, trails are overgrown and sewer systems are at risk of failing – dramatically impacting the natural environment and visitor experience. To make matters worse, nearly 75 percent of deferred maintenance projects in Texas are in our TX-23 parks and historic sites, at a whopping cost of:
- $100,421,335 at Big Bend National Park;
- $6,937,728 at San Antonio Missions National Historic Park;
- $7,031,046 at Amistad National Recreational Area in Del Rio;
- $2,810,717 at Fort Davis National Historic Site; and,
- $6,411,208 at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in the town Salt Flat in West Texas.
You don’t have to be a math major to realize that’s a lot of backlog and a big problem. I wholeheartedly believe that we have a responsibility to care for our national parks and historic sites so they are available for future generations of park goers to enjoy. That’s why I joined forces with my colleagues in the House and Senate on both sides of the political aisle to introduce the Restore Our Parks & Public Lands Act.
This bipartisan proposal represents the merging of several approaches, including my similar bill, the National Park Service Legacy Act, to reduce this backlog so we can fix our parks once and for all. This bill helps to jump start our overdue maintenance projects by directing existing federal funding to a newly established restoration fund, which will allow the National Park Service to invest in needed repairs.
The only way we can solve big problems in Congress is by working together, and this bill further exemplifies a team effort. I’ll continue to be a champion of our parks and work in a bipartisan manner to find solutions to the biggest problems facing our nation.
A former undercover CIA officer, entrepreneur and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.