The National Park Service has become "the symbol of Washington, DC dysfunction" and the parks "neglected or abused for political gamesmanship," alleges a new report from the office of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
The 200-page report, "PARKED! How Congress' Misplaced Priorities Are Trashing Our National Treasures," says that members of Congress have raided the National Park Service budget to create new parks and programs, forcing them to delay much-needed repairs on already established parks, which is a threat to the health, safety and accessibility of park visitors. In 2012, it says, NPS delayed more than a quarter billion dollars in maintenance projects, adding to an $11.5 billion backlog that already exists.
"Politicians would rather take credit for creating a new park in their community than caring for the parks that already exist," the report says. "There is, after all, no ribbon cutting ceremony for taking out the trash, fixing a broken railing or filling a pothole."
In particular, the report cites the National Mall, which, before beginning renovations, "had become a national disgrace with crumbling sidewalks, trampled on and worn out grass, uncollected garbage, and monuments in disrepair." There's also a proposal to have a national park on the moon, honoring the site of the 1969 lunar landing.
"This spaced out proposal is just another example of how Congress has turned the National Park Service into its own national 'pork' service, with Washington politicians earmarking new parks for purely political and parochial purposes rather than taking care of the national treasures that are already part of the park system," the report says. Coburn's office cites parks that have been established to win votes or act as gifts to lawmakers' spouses.
National Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said the agency will review the report.
"The National Park Service appreciates the Senator's interest in national parks and the work that the National Park Service does with communities across the country. As we prepare for our second century of service to the American people, this is a good discussion to have," he said.