NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government Mismanages National Park

November 12, 1999

The federal government's wilderness management agencies have a fervent desire to acquire more and more private lands and put them beyond the reach of developers. Critics of this land grab say the government doesn't do a very good job managing the acreage it already has.

A case in point is Glacier National Park in Montana.

  • Among the 350 buildings in the park stands the Many Glacier Hotel -- a 1915 relic with timbers that are beginning to shift, making hallways bend this way and that, windows that won't open and doors that won't close, and a heating system that springs six leaks a night.
  • Many of the retaining walls along Going-to-the-Sun Road -- which was built across the Continental Divide in 1932 -- lean recklessly out into space and melting snows are washing away the road's foundation.
  • Metal fatigue in the park's fleet of 34 buses -- built in the late 1930s -- forced them to be condemned in August and their oak frames are now being eaten away by termites.
  • Restoration costs are almost prohibitive -- $100 million to restore four hotels and at least $70 million to rebuild the road -- out of an annual park budget of $8 million.

Park officials complain that even if they were to get the money to fix the roads, and sewage and water systems, a lot of other items -- like trail systems and back-country bridges -- would never get repaired.

Because they are federally registered historic landmarks, the hotels and roads must be restored to the way they were when they were built and with the same materials -- adding many millions to restoration costs.

The Interior Department's U.S. Park Service places the bill for deferred maintenance and construction needed to fix facilities in its 378 parks at around $5 billion. Yet the agency wants Congress to appropriate funds to acquire more properties.

Source: John J. Fialka, "Montana's Glacier Park Copes with Big Freeze on Funds to Maintain Its Historic Structures," Wall Street Journal, November 12, 1999.


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