To the editor:
Every year the National Park Service invites everyone to celebrate our national parks during National Park Week (April 20-28). National parks are among several of America’s top travel destinations, and Missouri is home to 12 different sites! This includes Ozark National Scenic Riverway in southern Missouri — the first national park area to protect a river system — where families can camp, fish, cycle and canoe year-round.
Ozark National Scenic Riverway, along with nearby Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield and the other 11 national park sites in Missouri, entice 2.9 million visitors annually, and generate huge economic benefits and jobs for our state. As the president and CEO of the Springfield, Missouri, Convention & Visitors Bureau, I know that when parks thrive, nearby communities and commerce flourish. In the most recent year of data, 2017, folks spent $204 million in the communities that surround our parks, which supported 3,420 jobs.
Unfortunately, across the country our national parks need repairs, and in Missouri alone we need about $73 million to fix crumbling roads, outdated electrical systems and deteriorating monuments. It’s funding that would improve visitor accessibility, tourism revenue and park preservation.
Congress has begun to address this repair backlog by introducing legislation (S. 500 and H.R. 1225) to invest in national parks. In the spirit of National Park Week, I hope members of Congress stand up for national parks and pass this legislation, which would provide dedicated funding for deferred maintenance needs.
Tracy Kimberlin, CDME President/CEO Springfield, Missouri, Convention & Visitors Bureau