The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Jean Bardarson
Mayor of Seward 

Open letter of support for National Park infrastructure

 


Visitors to Alaska come to experience many things, and they come to Seward for the great fishing, amazing scenery, and wonderful people. Seward has a world-class national park, Kenai Fjords, which hosted over 300,000 visitors last year. Visitors to Kenai Fjords spent over $59 million in Seward and the surrounding area. Seward residents know that Kenai Fjords and Alaska’s network of other destination parks — from Denali to Katmai to Glacier Bay — are significant contributors to Seward’s economy.

Last year, during the National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary, Kenai Fjords had 346,534 visitors, just 318 less than the record number set in 2011. These numbers are so exciting for our community, but the reality is, as visitation numbers go up, the parks face challenges. One particularly pressing challenge is the backlog of deferred maintenance. Across the country, national parks face more than $11 billion in needed infrastructure repairs, and they don’t have enough staff or money to fix them.

Although it is not the most glamorous part of its role, the Park Service is responsible for repairing and maintaining tens of thousands of trails, campgrounds, battlefields, sewer systems, roads and many other pieces of infrastructure across 417 national park sites. Kenai Fjords National Park had over $2 million in infrastructure backlog documented in 2016, for things like trail maintenance and public use cabins. The Seward City Council believes it is in the people of Seward’s interest to ensure that Kenai Fjords and other Alaska national parks remain in good repair so that they continue to attract visitors to our community and provide work for Alaska contractors.

On March 28, 2017, the Seward City Council unanimously passed Resolution 2017-016 stating that it is the responsibility of Congress to maintain America’s national parks, to ensure that our natural places and our history are preserved and documented for future generations, and for the adjacent communities that rely on the direct and indirect economic benefits generated by visits to national park sites.

The Seward City Council urged Congress to create a reliable, predictable stream of resources to address deferred maintenance needs in America’s National Park System. Our congressional delegation is a strong one, and we hope that they will work to ensure Kenai Fjords and Alaska’s other national parks continue to have the infrastructure necessary to keep visitors coming back to Seward and our neighboring communities.

 

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