In case you missed it, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will receive $250,000 to repair the Clingmans Dome Tower. American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation ran a popularity contest to see which national park units would get the most clicks.
I am grateful that my park was one of the winners but still bothered that the park loving public had to click and click for about six weeks to get money to repair an iconic tower.
As I write this piece, I realize that this is hardly the first time that I’ve clicked to help fund a routine restoration project in the Smokies. A few years ago, I clicked to save the elkmont houses.
Look at the parks that won. It’s no surprise that of the nine parks, seven were in the west. Only the Smokies and the Everglades were eastern parks. Eight of the nine were designated national parks. What about the seashores, battlefields, and national monuments?
As a corollary, (I see it as a corollary), a National Park Service report shows that 10,712,673 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2015 spent $873,886,500 in communities near the park. That spending supported 13,709 jobs in the local area. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service.
“In 2015, over 10.7 million visitors not only came to the park, but they also spent time in our local communities to find lodging, meals, and entertainment creating an incredible economic benefit throughout our region,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.
10 to 1. What investor would turn down these odds? Apparently, our elected officials that won’t fund our parks properly.
Can we do something about this in the November elections?
Can the same people who clicked for their favorite parks ask their elected officials where they stand on national park funding?