On Feb, 5th a National Park Service press release said that the National Parks maintenance backlog reached $11.9 billion! Still as they said in the release, “Deferred maintenance is necessary work”. It’s still got to get done. While people on whatever side of an issue argue, debate, justify & pontificate… On the ground, the work still needs to get done. The grass still grows, the trails still need clearing, trees to be cut, brush to be removed and on and on it goes!
It’s the same at Wisconsin’s State Parks including our most popular park, Devil’s Lake State Park. In Wisconsin, on May 7th, 2015, the legislature’s budget committee voted to cut tax support of the parks ($4.6 million that goes to the state parks and trails annually) and instead raise users fees. Of course, many people familiar with the issue doubt this will work and things will probably get worse before they get better.
So here’s the thing. We need to address funding and the politics, but we can’t let things go in the meantime. When it comes to maintaining our parks, the solutions have to be found in an energised and caring friends group, dedicated, hard-working volunteers and a knowledgeable staff who find creative ways to make up the differences while taking the lead and not surrendering to apathy. I mean, that’s always the trick isn’t it? We can be faced will all sorts of headwinds, but if people care, really care, they seem to always find a way. Isn’t it your experience when you travel, that you can always tell a park that is loved? It’s obvious. Somehow the work gets done even if the people on the ground have to beg, borrow and steal to do it.
I’m reminded of the old quote attributed to Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” I would certainly encourage everyone who cares about their parks to be active in caring. Donations are great of course, but hands are better. Join your park’s “Friends” groups or volunteer for special activities & events or through other organizations. Take ownership in your parks and natural areas. If you see things not getting done, speak up, raise a fuss, make the calls, join the leadership, be the squeaky wheel… but also help find solutions. Our parks are our legacy and it will always be the folks on the ground, the ones who take it personally and love their parks, They… YOU will be the ones who will make the difference.