WASHINGTON (AP) -- For the first time in more than 50 years, a major facelift for the National Park Service is being proposed.
The Bush Administration's budget released Monday includes a $2.2 billion, 5-year push to wipe out a backlog of park maintenance projects.
In Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is slated to receive $3.6 million for a new maintenance complex, according to Jane Tranel, an NPS spokeswoman in Anchorage. At Denali National Park and Preserve, the measure provides $100,800 to restore historic cabins and $94,000 for a shelter and restroom at Kantishna. At Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, $20,000 will be used to replace two bridges on the Chilkoot Trail.
National Park Service Deputy Director Denis Galvin said the national effort will be the first major park refurbishing effort since ''Mission '66,'' a program launched in 1956 that built hundreds of park visitors centers and buildings over 10 years.
Next year, Bush is proposing spending $439.6 million to help erase the backlog of projects. That is a $61 million increase over the current year. He has also dedicated $40 million in visitor fees to improving the parks.
The National Park Service estimates that it has a maintenance backlog of $4.9 billion, although the figure is uncertain and continually changing. Road and bridge repairs, which won't be addressed until a new budget bill in 2004, make up $2.7 billion of that amount.
''We're making good on President Bush's pledge to eliminate the maintenance backlog on our national parks, so American families can better enjoy our nation's greatest natural and historic resources,'' Interior Secretary Gale Norton said Monday.
The park maintenance backlog includes a $4 million project to overhaul the water intake system at Mesa Verde National Park. The dilapidated water system is needed to provide fire protection and water to park visitors.
A $172,480 refurbishment of the unsafe Mather Amphitheater in Grand Canyon National Park is also on the list of projects. One of the buildings has rotting exterior siding and is infested with rodents. Half of the rodents in the region carry the potentially fatal Hantavirus.
Another $498,000 would be spent to replace the water line to the campground in Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona to prevent recurring breaks and accommodate more visitors.
''The situation in some of our parks is dire,'' said Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah, chairman of the House Resources Committee, in a statement Monday. ''Trails are overgrown, visitor facilities and campgrounds are in disrepair and even the cleanliness and safety of some water supplies are threatened. The $100 million increase next year for park maintenance and the promise of more funding to come is a decisive step in the right direction.''
More than 285 million visitors pour through the 384 parks managed by the Park Service each year.
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