Approved by the Infrastructure and Research Policy Committee on March 13, 2019
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on April 28, 2019
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2019
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports immediate and sustained action to reinvest in the deteriorating infrastructure of America's parks, monuments, battlefields, and other preserves including recreation facilities controlled by federal, state and local agencies. This action should consider both protection of our national heritage and enhancement of the experience of park visitors.
- Applying judiciously the principle of "the beneficiary pays" by charging appropriate user fees at the local, state, and federal levels and allowing those agencies to use all collected user fees to support maintenance, operations and enhancements to their park systems:
- Enacting legislation to permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to retain all collected recreation fees for use at its facilities;
- Fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support acquisition of land and easements on land at the federal, state, and local levels;
- Increasing appropriations for the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and other federal providers of recreational facilities to address maintenance backlogs;
- Renegotiation of franchise fees with concessionaires upon contract renewal of park and recreation facilities to increase return to support, operation and maintenance of facilities;
- Leveraging partnerships between the National Park Service and other recreation facilities operators and private groups to better utilize facilities and compensate for usage; and
- Developing urban parks for dual use as recreation facilities and stormwater management.
Our system of parks, monuments, battlefields, and other preserves, including recreation facilities are available for present and future Americans to enjoy the rich environmental, cultural, and historical heritage of our nation. At the federal level, the National Park System consists of more than 415 units covering more than 84 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories. The National Park System hosted more than 330 million visitors in 2017, up from 273 million in 2013.
Americans regularly enjoy park and recreation facilities maintained by entities at all levels of government. At the federal level, the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are the main custodians of park facilities. State parks and recreation areas cover nearly 14 million acres and served nearly 759 million visits in 2015, up from 740 million visitors in 2010. City parks have the highest visitation rates, with over 60 parks receiving in excess of 1 million visitors a year. Local and regional parks are typically easily accessible, year-round facilities that provide tangible benefits to communities including improved public health and welfare.
ASCE's 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave the nation's public parks and recreation facilities a D+. During the second half of the 20th century, the National Park Service suffered from stagnant budget appropriations, even as popularity and use skyrocketed. The National Park Service estimates that, as of the end of FY 2018, there was a more than $11.9 billion in backlogged maintenance and repair needs for America's national parks. While these statistics for the National Park Service are only one example, they are indicative of the situation for other park and recreations lands at the federal, state and local level. As the National Park Service begins its second century continued funding for America's Parks and Monuments has never been more critical.
The accelerated deterioration of our parks and other recreation facilities infrastructure results from the general reduction in investment for the preservation and enhancement of park facilities. Decline in investment in parks and recreation may lead to a reduction in public health and welfare. Federal agencies, states, and localities continue to struggle for the necessary funds to invest in parks amid flat and declining budgets
ASCE Policy Statement 503
First Approved in 2003