Letter to the Editor

Fund our parks infrastructure

As summer approaches many families will be visiting one of America's great national parks. The writer and historian Wallace Stegner famously penned, "National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."

Missouri is home to six national park sites and six pass-through trails that welcome roughly 2.9 million visitors annually. In the most recent year we have data, 2017, these visitors spent nearly $204 million in gateway communities near parks, creating and supporting 3,420 jobs. This spending generated a $297 million impact to the state's economy, which helps Missouri schools, families and local tax bases.

However, after years of inconsistent congressional funding, our parks need serious repairs -- $73 million in park infrastructure repairs in Missouri alone. Without that funding our parks face threats to accessibility and safety -- things like roads, trails, water lines, electricity and buildings. If we don't invest in national parks, visitors don't return as often and the local communities and businesses feel the pain.

It is my hope that our Missouri members in Congress will support bipartisan legislation that creates a dedicated funding mechanism to fix crumbling infrastructure in our national parks. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to preserve these shining examples of America at its best.

Brenda Newbern, executive director, Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau