Millions Of Dollars Heading To National Parks For Road, Multiple-Use Trail Improvements

Millions of dollars are flowing to the National Park System for work on aging roads, multiple-use trails in need of some TLC, and transportation systems thanks to the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks program overseen by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

At Denali National Park and Preserve, for instance, $275,000 is going towards the purchase of a hybrid bus for use in studies to determine transportation alternatives in the park. The company that is awarded an upcoming ten-year transit concessions contract will be required to replace the 110 buses in the fleet with the technology that is determined to be the best as a result of this study.

And at Cape Cod National Seashore, more than $2 million is being spent over Fiscal Year 2011 and FY12 to "redesign and overhaul the 1.6-mile Nauset Bicycle Trail" and to "connect existing Province Lands bicycle trails in the national seashore with downtown Provincetown via a 'share the road' facility."

Here's a look at some of the other programs funded in FY11 and FY12 in the parks:

* Devils Postpile National Monument, $400,000 to "add a 12th bus to its Reds Meadow/Devils Postpile Shuttle service fleet";

* Golden Gate National Recreation Area, $1 million, to "build the first phase of the California Coastal Bicycle/Pedestrian Trail located in the Presidio, a 1,480-acre wooded park that offers visitors vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean";

* Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, $270,000, to "lease buses to maintain a free shuttle service that runs throughout the parks";

* City of Visalia, California, $250,000 for the "purchase of two additional buses to expand its round-trip service from Visalia to Sequoia National Park, where it connects to the two routes that operate within the park";

* Yosemite National Park, $890,000, "to plan for the reconfiguration of transit in conjunction with the restoration of The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias";

* Town of Estes Park, Colorado, $3 million "towards construction of a 300-space multilevel transit parking structure, two bus bays to support transit services between the Town of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, and for a real-time bus arrival information system. Funds will also be used for final design of a transportation hub at the Estes Park Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center";

* National Mall and Memorial Parks, $356,923, to "conduct a tour bus study designed to document and improve tour bus operations that serve the millions of visitors who come to the nation’s capital each year to see the memorials and landscapes that showcase our nation’s values and heritage, and develop best practices and actions that will improve Washington, D.C., tour bus operations in the future";

* City of St. Augustine, Florida, $753,000, to "improve the pedestrian experience for the 670,000 visitors who come to the nation’s oldest city and its main attraction, the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, each year. The improvements include widening of sidewalks and converting Orange Street to a pedestrian-focused brick street, which will also accommodate transit, sightseeing trams, and horse-drawn carriages";

* City of St. Augustine, Florida, $150,000, to "study ways to accommodate a 20-percent influx of visitors for the upcoming 450th Commemoration of the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The monument is the primary destination for the 2.5 million visitors who come to the city annually. The planning study will address additional parking needs as well as a temporary shuttle or circulator system";

* National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, $500,000, "for the project development and environmental study of 21.8 miles of the eastern portion of the River of Grass Greenway, a conceptual non-motorized transportation and recreation corridor that will run parallel to the existing scenic U.S. Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) across the Everglades and seamlessly connect parks, public lands, and communities";

* WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, USS Arizona Memorial, $2,012,500, "to replace the ferry dock at the USS Arizona Memorial, which will improve safety and accessibility for the 1.5 million visitors who are brought to the memorial each year via a U.S. Navy shuttle boat system";

* Town of Santa Claus, Indiana, $340,000, to "be used for the design and preliminary engineering of a bicycle/pedestrian trail connecting the federal, state and local governmental units of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Lincoln State Park, Heritage Hills High School and Middle School, and the Town of Santa Claus, along with numerous residential, amusement, and lodging facilities";

* Lowell National Historical Park, $1.5 million, "to install key improvements to its trolley system, including rails, switches and electronics. These improvements will allow trolleys to begin running on a preset schedule to the park’s attractions";

* City of Lowell, Massachusetts, $1.6 million, " to develop a new light rail heritage transit system to service the city’s congested downtown urban core. The proposed transit system will be an expansion of Lowell National Historical Park's existing 1.5-mile trolley system and provide direct public access to the City’s Gallagher Intermodal Transportation Terminal, downtown commercial sites, cultural and recreational attractions, and the University of Massachusetts - Lowell campus centers";

* Assateague Island National Seashore, $450,000, " to resurface the bike trail in the Sinepuxent District of Assateague Island National Seashore, which is famous for its wild horses and a vast array of other wildlife. The asphalt paved trail is 4.1 miles long by 8 feet wide. Interpretive signs will be installed and the trail will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The trail, a critical element of the existing and proposed alternative transportation system in the park, is currently in a state of disrepair";

* Acadia National Park, $1.3 million, to "make safety improvements at six bus stops and maximize ridership and efficiency on the Island Explorer bus system. Passenger amenities include new bus boarding areas, passenger waiting areas, accessible shuttle fleet service and detailed signage";

* Michigan Department of Transportation, $1.3 million, will "in cooperation with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, use funds to construct three miles of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, completing the first 9.5 miles of the trail and connecting the Lakeshore’s popular visitor destinations between the gateway communities of Glen Arbor and Empire";

* ALTRAN Public Transit, $175,000, "to purchase a state-of-the-art 25-passenger diesel-electric hybrid minibus for use within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which provides habitat for deer, moose, eagle and numerous other species of wildlife. The minibus will serve more than 2,000 backpackers a year, and will lead to a significant reduction of air pollution. The North Country National Scenic Trail runs the length of the Lakeshore and includes 13 backcountry campgrounds, each of which has several individual and group sites. Some 15,000 backpackers and hikers use this trail and facilities each year";

* Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, $843,140, to "work with transportation agencies and partners in the Twin Cities Metro Area to establish a seamless, alternative transportation system that utilizes existing and proposed transportation facilities along and connecting to the Mississippi River. The project includes bike share stations, accessible bus stops, sidewalks and pedestrian connections between bus stops and the Mississippi River Trail, and new wayfinding signage";

* Gateway National Recreation Area, Jamaica Bay Unit, $250,000, to "study an alternative route for the Jamaica Bay Greenway through Spring Creek Park that would provide an attractive, separated bicycle path alternative to onstreet designated bicycle lanes and connect the densely populated neighborhoods of Howard Beach and Lindenwood with public transit centers";

* Gateway National Recreation Area, Jamaica Bay Unit, $400,000, to "perform final planning, environmental assessment and permitting for the remaining rehabilitation work and dredging that is required to fully restore the operation of the Riis Landing Ferry Terminal, which will improve access to national parks in the New York Harbor area";

* New York City Department of Transportation, $594,378, to "complete missing links in the Jamaica Bay Greenway to enhance safety and pedestrian and bicycle access to Jamaica Bay destinations in the Gateway National Recreation Area. Improvements include enhanced pedestrian and bicycle crossings, the installation of new bicycle lane markings on existing streets and wayfinding signage";

* Cuyahoga Valley National Park, $994,000, to "modernize a 46-year-old locomotive engine that serves the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The modernization will reduce exhaust emissions by 90 percent or higher along the 51-mile route. It will also reduce fuel consumption by 60 percent, eliminate oil waste, and reduce park noise pollution. The rebuild is expected to extend the life of the engine another 25 to 30 years";

* Cuyahoga Valley National Park, $856,290, to rehabilitate two of its railroad cars, one which carries bikes for cyclists, the other that provides wheelchair access for visitors, and to replace a nearly 60-year-old railroad power car used to provide electricity for the park's railroad";

* Cuyahoga Valley National Park, $1.36 million, to "install a pedestrian bridge to directly link the primary boarding station to the Lock 39 Trailhead of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. The pedestrian bridge connection is a critical component in the park’s alternative transportation system, connecting trail users with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad";

* Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, $530,000, to "study, test/pilot and implement a regional alternative transportation system for Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The goal of this project is to coordinate and connect existing and new systems to best serve visitors to the park and reduce traffic and congestion";

* Johnstown Flood National Memorial, $175,000, to "purchase a wheel-chair accessible bus for tours of the area affected by the Great Flood of 1889, which claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people and destroyed communities in its path. This vehicle will allow visitors to the memorial a richer educational experience and reduce automobile usage on local road";

* Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, $875,000, to "use intelligent transportation technology (ITS) at the Gettysburg National Military Park to relieve parking constraints by redirecting motorists to overflow parking facilities served by local transit. Penn DOT will also install ITS technology in the park’s shuttle vehicles owned by Freedom Transit, the local transit agency, in order to give visitors real-time information on the arrival of the next bus";

* City of San Antonio, Texas, $324,000, to "expand San Antonio’s B-Cycle bike share system, connecting four missions in the National Park (Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan and Espada) to the Alamo, in the heart of downtown San Antonio. The project includes five bicycle 'docking' stations in close proximity to or on National Park land";

* Grand County, Utah, $2.5 million, to "continue construction of the Colorado Riverway Path, part of the North Moab Recreation Areas Alternative Transportation System that will link the City of Moab to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, areas known for the most spectacular and surreal desert rock formations on earth";

* Mount Rainier National Park, $106,400, "to lease seven shuttle buses and operate the Paradise Area Shuttle System during the summer season to help transport visitors throughout the park."

Comments

You can almost name, as you look down this list of transportation funding awards, each of the clever superintendents and park managers who understand the value of jumping on alternative funding sources when they are available. These managers understand, for the planning projects, what a huge advantage it is to complete a plan laying out the purpose, scope and cost of a project. This is a huge advantage when State departments of transportation, or congress and the federal DOT, are looking for projects to fund. Projects like these that help connect people to parks are the ones most likely to attract local political support, necessary for the state to actually pay for the project.

This is particularly important because the normal funding source for park transporation projects, the federal lands highway fund -- although in theory can cover planning projects like these -- is stretched so thin by the need to maintain western parkways and basic transportation improvements that almost no money is ever left to consider the innovative needs.

Kudos, too, to the late Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) and his staff, for recognizing all this and making sure a special allocation is available to help parks.

One comment, though, to NPT staff when you write as you did: "National Parks Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, $500,000, "for the project development and environmental study of 21.8 miles of the eastern portion of the River of Grass Greenway," PLEASE remember the name is NATIONAL PARK SERVICE. Not 'parkS service.' Touchy-touchy, I know, but it sounds like some sort of city parks department. And, we are proud of the name National Park Service ! "

[The typo has been corrected. Ed.]

It was a typo, it was a typo!;-)

Maybe wonderful news for some parks - but misplaced priorities for government money (as is so often the case). These will fund transportation to park facilities that are not open or maintained due to budget cuts and/or to parks that don't have enough money to hire the seasonal employees needed to provide necessary programs and services. These millions could be much better spent if NPS managers were allowed to actually spend the money where the greatest needs are!

This is all great and very appreciated. Although I am really disappointed that the Blue Ridge Parkway isn't on this list of recipients. After all it is considered the most visited national park.

In response to the Cato study, see below concerning TNC. It's not the first time a non-profit was accused of questionable management of acquired lands:

The Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s largest environmental groups, has purchased 161,000 acres of prized land in the Adirondacks for $110-million, but to preserve it, the group will allow logging, which has drawn criticism in some quarters, reports The New York Times.

The 161,000 acres of land was purchased from Finch, Pruyn & Company, a timber business. As part of the acquisition, the conservancy agreed to continue logging to supply wood to the Finch Paper mill in Glens Falls, N.Y., for the next 20 years.

Anonymous foresters quoted by the newspaper say the conservancy may cut at least 65,000 tons of pulpwood trees per year for the mill. Additional varieties of trees may also be cut. Furthermore, to pay off debt and high property taxes, the conservancy will, in the near term, sell off land to private owners.

These efficient transportation systems are much needed, and the few millions mentioned here are a good start, but compared to the Trillions spent elsewhere (such as "defense") that dwarf these numbers no near-insignificant levels, it really isn't much. A bus or two here, a bike path there... Why can't the NPS get the full funding that it needs!?

Kudos to the person from NC that noticed. You may be surprise to note that NC has NEVER received money in the history of this seven year old program. I love the Blue Ridge Parkway but mostly for the driving experience. If and when the Transit in the Parks even pays attention to NC, I hope it is for the Oterbanks National Seashore, which is becoming a auto eyesore. An alternative transportation solution is paramount.
cheers