Our National Parks need you: call for the Caverns

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service (NPS), a crucial moment for the current and future management of our national parks.

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The elevators at Carlsbad Caverns have been out of service since November 2015, requiring visitors to walk in and out of the Caverns via a hike that is equivalent to climbing a 79-story building.

The NPS manages more than 400 sites around the country, including large-scale parks, monuments, battlefields, and other significant landmarks. These areas encompass more than 84 million acres across the country. In New Mexico, we have 14 NPS-managed parks and monuments that bring substantial economic benefits to our state: more than $83 million a year in tourism dollars. That translates to 1.5 million park visitors annually passing through gateway communities such as Carlsbad, Nageezi, Taos and Jemez.

Unfortunately, the majesty and economic engine of our parks is in peril due to years of neglected maintenance and a backlog of infrastructure repairs. Nationally, the NPS has an estimated $11.9 billion backlog in needed infrastructure repairs. In New Mexico, there is more than $113 million in delayed repairs.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park has more than $44 million in deferred infrastructure repairs.

Sadly, this park is a painful example of what happens when necessary repairs are not made: the situation becomes worse. The elevators at Carlsbad Caverns have been out of service since November 2015, requiring visitors to walk in and

out of the Caverns via a hike that is equivalent to climbing a 79-story building. That means that the elderly, the disabled, including disabled veterans, and those with very young children—as well as those simply unable or unwilling to do the hike—lack access to the Caverns. For those who do brave the hike, one can see hand railings held together with duct tape. Lack of resources over the years has created unsafe conditions like these at parks here and across the nation.

While there is a short-term fix planned to get an older, smaller set of elevators back up and running at Carlsbad Caverns, the infrastructure repair backlog pervades the National Park System. We need to call on Congress to address the infrastructure backlog here in our state and across the country. Our National Park Service needs dedicated funding for infrastructure repair and maintenance. In this year of the NPS Centennial, we owe it to our grandchildren to reinvest in America’s parks to make them safe, accessible, and well maintained for everyone to enjoy.

Please contact Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and let them know that you strongly support dedicated federal funding for infrastructure repairs. You can reach Sen. Udall at 505-988-6511 and Sen. Heinrich at 505-346-6601.