Why am I clicking for upgrades in a National Park?

Clingmans Dome

Why am I clicking to help repair the tower on Clingmans Dome?

Why are we asked to click to compete for money to repair the tower on Clingmans Dome? Why isn’t expected maintenance a routine expense?

Here’s the official request from an (edited) press release put out by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is participating in Partners in Preservation (PIP), a community-based partnership of American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to raise awareness of the importance of preserving historic places. In honor of the National Park Service’s Centennial, the 2016 National Parks campaign will award $2 million in grants to historic sites in need of preservation within national parks units, as decided by popular vote.

As one of 20 historic places selected, Great Smoky Mountains National Park hopes to be one of the winners of the campaign to help Clingmans Dome Tower. Straddling the North Carolina and Tennessee state line at 6,643 feet, the Clingmans Dome Tower is a prominent landmark and destination as the highest point in the park.

Poster campaign at OVC
Poster campaign at OVC

Twenty national park units are competing with each other to repair or replace key structures and features. To take two examples of other worthy places I’ve visited recently and wrote about:

Everglades National Park boasts the Flamingo Visitor Center, a distinctive example of Park Service modern architecture and the Mission 66 building program that transformed America’s national parks in the 1950s and 1960s. They also need $250,000 to repair the visitor center.

In Atlanta, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, part of Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, needs $227,000 grant to preserve the exterior of the church.

Ironically, many of these requests for money, including Clingmans Dome, are from Mission 66 projects. Between 1956 and 1966, our federal government spent more than one billion dollars on infrastructure and other improvements in the parks.

I’m not writing a press release, but an opinion piece. So beyond asking you to click and click, I ask:

* Why aren’t we spending the equivalent money on Mission 2016, instead of asking the public to click and vote? [There is no Mission 2016]

* Why are we depending on private companies to fix infrastructure in our national parks? As Sally Jewell, the Interior Secretary, says about park partners like Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association, “friends groups used to provide the margin of excellence. Now they’re providing the margin of survival for parks.”

When was the last time you heard any of the presidential candidates give their opinions about the importance of public lands? I feel I’m pretty informed but I have never heard or read anything about their views on public land. If you dig deep on the web, you might see a statement on the environment but that’s so much more general and meaningless.

So instead of demanding that our Federal Government fund the parks properly, we’re clicking and pitting one outstanding park against the other. But I guess I’m going to click as well.

Go to VoteYourPark.org and click, click, click every day.

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