When I visit national parks, I gravitate toward hiking trails or exhibits on the culture and history of the area. But in May, I returned to Yellowstone National Park - one of my favorite areas in the country - to look at something much different: the whopping $585 million in deferred maintenance issues in the park.
These include sections of the Grand Loop road that are run-down and unsafe, historic buildings with peeling paint, deteriorating employee housing, and outdated water and wastewater systems - all part of the vital support system that makes the park safe, accessible, and enjoyable for the people who explore Yellowstone, which records roughly 4 million visits each year.
With so many people coming through the park, staff members are constantly working to maintain aging infrastructure, some of which dates to 1872, when Yellowstone was designated as the country’s first national park.
I set off before the sun and drove through the park’s West Entrance amid snow showers, then headed toward Mammoth Springs. When I arrived, I toured park ranger housing - trailers that date to the 1970s - which show their age: brown spots on the ceilings from leaky roofs, rodent droppings, holes in walls, and sagging floors.
The visit was part of a segment for “This American Land,” a TV show scheduled to air in spring 2020 on PBS stations across the country, that focuses on the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog across National Park Service (NPS) sites.
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