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PARKED! How Congress’ Misplaced Priorities are Trashing Our National Treasures

PARKED! How Congress’ Misplaced Priorities are Trashing Our National Treasures

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Published by Jason Pye
Report from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on wasteful spending by the National Park Service.
Report from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on wasteful spending by the National Park Service.

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Published by: Jason Pye on Oct 30, 2013
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05/15/2014

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1Dear Taxpayer, Visitors to national parks have been threatened with trespassing charges, obstructedfrom paying their respects at a memorial to those who lost their lives in service to ourcountry, and turned away from other National Park Service sites closed due to a lack of funding. All of this began occurring
before
the government shutdown in October.Perhaps more than any other part of the federal government, our National Park Systemhas become the symbol of Washington, DC dysfunction. These cherished nationaltreasures, which were entrusted to the National Park Service to be preserved andprotected, have instead been neglected or abused for political gamesmanship.Long before the government shutdown and sequestration, congressionalshortsightedness and bureaucratic mismanagement were already plaguing our nationalparks. Barricaded parks across the country exposed the calamity in Washington in2013, but the National Park System has long been a microcosm of the irresponsible andmisplaced priorities within the entire federal budget. Just as important programs likeMedicare and Social
Security have been raided for decades to pay for politicians’ pet
projects, Washington has also plundered the National Park Service budget to create new parks and programs with little national significance. And as the lack of budgetdiscipline has driven up the national debt and jeopardized the solvency of retirement
programs and our nation’s future, the misplaced priorities within the parks budget are
endangering the care of the very sites we all revere.Our elected representatives have been too focused on their own parochial politicalinterests to see the state of disrepair that has befallen some of our greatest nationaltreasures. For example, the National Mall
clearly visible from the Capitol and WhiteHouse
has become a national disgrace, trampled on and worn out.Politicians would rather take credit for creating a new park in their community thancaring for the parks that already exist. There is, after all, no ribbon cutting ceremony fortaking out the trash, fixing a broken railing or filling a pothole.But failing to conduct maintenance endangers the longevity of our parks and experienceof their visitors. Last year alone, the National Park Service delayed more than a quarter billion dollars in much needed maintenance projects, adding to the $11.5 billionmaintenance backlog already threatening the health, safety, and accessibility of park  visitors.The ever growing maintenance cost has not stopped those in Washington from addingnew parks, programs, and property to the Park Service. This year, mere days aftersequestration supposedly caused the delay in the opening of and shorter hours at
 
2national parks, the President single-handedly established three new National Park units. Likewise, Congress spent $57 million to purchase more property for the parks
 some land for nearly $1 million per acre. No one would purchase a new car whileignoring a leaking ceiling or broken pipes in their own home, but that is essentially what Washington is doing with our national parks.The decaying of our National P
arks is the physical manifestation of Washington’s
misplaced priorities. Much like the accrual of our $17 trillion national debt over time,the build-
up of deferred care of national park lands is the direct result of Washington’s
out-of-control spending addiction that puts off doing what is necessary for doing what isself-serving. Whether it be the uncertainty of future U.S. treasury markets or thetenuous state of a corroded water pipe and an aging utility system, the unsustainabletrajectory of deficits and deferrals make it only a matter of time before all willexperience failure.This report,
 PARKED! How Congress’ Misplaced Priorities Are Trashing Our National 
Treasures,
exposes how Washington is failing to properly maintain our most enduringand esteemed sites and symbols and where your tax dollars intended for these parks is being spent instead. It also provides commonsense recommendations to ensure thatthose parks and memorials with true national significance are given the care they deserve so their beauty and significance to our history is preserved for futuregenerations.Sincerely,Tom A. Coburn, M.D.U.S. Senator

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