From grime to crumbling masonry, America’s parks get a makeover | Way of life
Near the Tidal Basin in Washington, crews cleaned dirt from the white marble exterior of the Jefferson Memorial and repaired the cracked stone to prevent falling debris. At the Statue of Liberty, plans are underway to waterproof the exterior of the massive stone fort built in 1807 that serves as the base of the monument.
And at New River Gorge in West Virginia, one of the newer national parks, historic masonry gates have been restored near the Grandview Visitor Center, which offers sweeping views of the valley and the waterway 400 yards away. low.
Under legislation passed by Congress in 2020, some of America’s most spectacular natural settings and historical icons, from landmarks on the east coast to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite in the west, are getting a facelift.
The Great American Outdoor Act spends up to $ 1.6 billion a year for the next five years on major maintenance and repairs that have been repeatedly postponed. The funding will go to critical projects in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and recreation areas, according to the Home Office. It also includes funding for tribal schools.
Some of the first funded projects are smaller projects that will preserve historic structures like the gates of New River Gorge and the marble walls of the Jefferson Memorial. But dozens of other projects are on the way, some more urgent than others.
In Puerto Rico, plans call for stabilizing a blast eroded by wind, rain and waves at the San Juan National Historic Site to prevent rocks from falling onto a popular recreation trail below.
Another project will repair the failing left abutment of a 146-year-old masonry dam on the Potomac River in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park “to prevent possible loss of life” due to a sudden spill of water.
At the Grand Canyon, a huge Swiss chalet-style building with oversized balconies, windows and eaves is being prepared for an upgrade that will bring the now vacant structure up to standard and stabilize it while the park determines how best to proceed. to use it.
Some of the projects planned for next year will address infrastructure issues that visitors to the park might not immediately notice: repaving roads, repairing the roofs of leaking pavilions, and replacing outdated utilities that pose safety risks. .
One of these projects will replace the high voltage transmission lines and dilapidated towers in Yosemite National Park. Lines built in the mid-1930s feed the entire Yosemite Valley.
Several campgrounds will see improvements, including one in the Rocky Mountains that will get new utility lines to provide constant drinking water and electricity, as well as more electrical hookups and parking.
“The Great American Outdoors Act as a whole, with the amount of funding available, really gives us a unique opportunity to take on some of the big projects, the big needs, of the National Park Service,” while also addressing several critical issues. small projects, said Mike Caldwell, the National Park Service’s acting deputy director of parks, facilities and land planning.
New River Gorge, where one of the first maintenance projects was completed in October, attracted around 70,000 visitors a year before being designated a national park last year. Attendance has increased with the new status, particularly at Grandview, a popular location for hiking, picnics and for taking in the spectacular scenery, spokesperson Eve West said.
“It is one of the most beautiful places in the park. It’s 1,400 feet from the top to the river, so you get a phenomenal view of the park from the main vantage point, ”West said.
The masonry fireplaces built in the 1930s in the Grandview picnic area had deteriorated from the elements, and the grates remained mostly unused until September, when crews were dispatched. arrivals to carry out repairs.
Crews replaced brick and mortar and installed new railings, said Moira Gasior, historic preservation manager at New River Gorge. Gasior worked to help secure $ 280,000 in funding for the project, which included repairs to a large chimney in a picnic shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corp before World War II.
At the Jefferson Memorial, the $ 3.8 million project to clean and restore the structure under its dome ended in late October after several months of work to clean up the dirt that had spilled onto the white marble, making it more dark – even black in places – said Mike Litterst, spokesperson for the National Mall.
“The Jefferson Memorial had certainly had a deteriorated appearance over the past several years due to the biofilm, and cleaning has made it the crisp white that people expect and, to be perfectly honest, Thomas Jefferson deserves,” said Litterst.
In the coming years, several other high priority projects are slated for funding, including a new water pipe at the Grand Canyon that serves more than 6 million visitors and residents year round.
Grand Canyon spokeswoman Joelle Baird said the park expects funding in fiscal 2023 for the pipeline which has ruptured more than 85 times in the past 10 years, resulting in costly repairs requiring the transport of supplies and workers by helicopter.
The cost of replacing the line, which is decades beyond its lifespan, easily exceeds $ 100 million, Baird said.
“It will be a very big business, but at the end of the day it will have huge benefits for the infrastructure and water supply of the whole park,” she said.