RICHMOND, Va. — A hold up in Washington is causing a backlog in maintenance requests from national historic sites, but a Virginia Senator is trying to fix this problem.
Buses filled with school children lined the street outside the old home of African American businesswoman Maggie L. Walker. Roughly 16,000 people of all ages make their way here each year. The building, and surrounding ones as well, have been taken care of by the National Parks Service since the 1970s.
“Our reason for existence is to make sure these parks are preserved,” Superintendent Doyle Sapp of the Maggie Walker National Historic Site said. “Not just for ours but for the school groups’ generation and their children.”
But the rangers have run into some problems with keeping up with the preservation of the site. There’s a major project going on to repair the brick and mortar of the building. Water also got through and caused damages to the wallpaper.
The bill overall is about $700,000 to fix everything. In total, Virginia’s parks need just over $1 billion worth of work. Nationally, there’s a $12 billion backlog for deferred maintenance parks because of underfunding by Congress for the years.
“Parks here and not only in Richmond, but all over our country, we’ve not been doing a very good job of making sure we keep up the maintenance,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) told a group of school children from Fairfax County Friday.
Sen. Warner had a personal tour of the historic site to see for himself what work needs to be done. It was also his first time there.
Walking through the cramped hallways of the historic home, rangers pointed out historic objects, including Walker’s wheelchair, and explained how the underfunding is impacting them.
Sen. Warner is one of the main lawmakers behind legislation that would create a funding source to preserve the parks. The money would come from royalties paid each year to the federal government from on-shore and off-shore oil, gas, coal and other mineral operations, as well as renewable energy.
“We can knock off about half of that 12 billion dollars of deferred maintenance,” Sen. Warner explained.
The legislation was initially proposed last year, but Sen. Warner says with bipartisan support he’s hopeful it could get through this year. Officials say about a third of Congress is backing it.
“We have to find whether we can get floor time or whether we can attach this piece of legislation to another bill that’s going through,” he added.
The legislation also has the support from the administration.
Virginia has 19 national parks. More than 24 million people visited them in 2017.