WASHINGTON — Politicians are coming together from both sides of the political spectrum in support of the "Great American Outdoors Act", which could help improve arguably D.C.'s most enjoyed place to be one with the outdoors — Rock Creek Park.
The Great American Outdoors Act would provide $1.9 billion each year to catch up on the $12 billion in work needed for our nation's 62 National Parks.
There is $57 million in deferred maintenance for the aging infrastructure of our third-oldest national park, according to the Rock Creek Conservancy.
Funding for Rock Creek Park could include updates to the Carter Barron Amphitheatre and have profound impacts on helping environmental changes, including the devastation of nonnative invasive plants, increased stormwater runoff and impacts of climate change.
It could also help with maintenance for the Rock Creek Golf Course, which only has a playable front 9, with the back 9 needing updates for safety and maintenance.
"Nationwide, funding for the National Park Service has steeply declined while visitation has climbed to record-high levels, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the case of Rock Creek, the staffing levels have been reduced more than 40 percent from 20 years ago," said the conservancy on June 10 in a letter on its website.
The measure passed the Senate on a bipartisan 73-to-25 vote. It heads now to the House.
President Donald Trump has tweeted that he would sign it.
National Parks do play a vital part in helping local communities. Visitors spend money at stores, hotels, gas stations and restaurants. Nationwide, that translates to over $40 billion in total national economic output from national park visitors, according to the National Park Service.
"It's been described as the most important piece of conservation and environmental legislation in a generation or 50 years," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a co-sponsor of the bill.
In Virginia, much of the money would be devoted to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive.
Rock Creek Park was officially authorized as a National Park in 1890 and encompasses 1,754 acres spread across District, with some of the park located in Maryland.