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Critics of recent federal budget cuts say they could have a lasting negative impact on national parks.
To D.C. area locals, the National Mall is a great place to hike or catch an exhibit at a free museum. But to local officials, it’s also a vital economic engine.
About 34 million tourists walk the mall annually, spending close to $600 million. Virginia pulls in about $900 million from its national parks, while Maryland sees more than $200 million infused into its economy from its parks.
John Garder works on budget issues for the National Parks Conservation Association. He says parks in the region are being neglected.
“We are concerned about the long term challenge of the deferred maintenance backlog that’s grown now to nearly $12 billion," Garder says. "What that means is crumbling infrastructure in the D.C. Metro area, as well as throughout the country, so we're concerned that if Congress doesn't turn things around, that could lead to long term damage of our national treasures that people really support.”
Spending on national parks is lower now than it was four years ago, which Garder is pressing lawmakers to reconsider. But in these tight budget times, there doesn't seem to be an appetite in Congress to increase spending on the park service any time soon.