On May 16, 2016, Marcia Argust, director of Pew’s initiative to restore America’s parks, submitted written comments to the National Park Service regarding Director’s Order No. 21. Pew hopes the director’s order will facilitate more opportunities for public-private partnerships to address the estimated $12 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects within the National Park System.
Pew’s Letter to National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis
Dear Director Jarvis:
The Pew Charitable Trusts welcomes the opportunity to express our views on the National Park Service’s proposed revisions to Director’s Order #21, relating to philanthropic partnerships. Pew encourages public-private collaboration that may help ensure our National Park System is adequately prepared to maintain, protect, and interpret the agency’s tremendous inventory of assets for generations to come.
It is imperative, however, that implementation of this Order not be viewed as rationale to decrease federal appropriations for the National Park Service (NPS), the primary source of funding for the agency. With that caution, we recognize there may be opportunities to leverage and supplement, not replace, congressional support. We recognize and appreciate that it is the intent of the proposed revisions to Director’s Order #21 to provide such opportunities. Several specific suggestions and concerns follow.
By its own estimate, NPS has a deferred maintenance backlog of nearly $12 billion. The Director’s Order should provide more guidance to NPS managers about including deferred maintenance needs as criteria when evaluating philanthropic arrangements. Without more guidance, maintenance needs that are critical to the health of a park unit, but not necessarily visible to the public or of interest to a potential donor, may remain neglected. Specifically,
NPS managers should evaluate philanthropic partnerships for opportunities to repurpose existing facilities and/or assets, before considering the construction of new facilities.
Again, we appreciate the need for NPS to seek new and nimble sources of supplemental funding. We are wary of the additional time constraints Director’s Order #21 may place on NPS managers and hope that other key aspects of their jobs—the protection of natural, historic, and cultural resources, planning and management, and interpretation—do not fall behind because of increased requirements that may not be matched with increased staff capacity.
Thank you for your consideration of our comments.
Director, Restore America’s Parks, The Pew Charitable Trusts