Thursday, May 31, 2007

Future of National Parks

The Department of the Interior outlined a plan to improve National Parks in preparation for the system's 100th anniversary. Some documents are available on the Interior website, with the Report to the President and a fact sheet in pdf files. The plan foresees a 10-year budget of $100 million in federal money and $3 billion raised from private donations.

The Post reports that the plan includes improvements to two Washington-area parks, the National Mall and the C&O Canal.

The heavily-used Mall and its monuments, which bear many signs of time and wear, could be made an international example of "excellence in park design, maintenance, and visitor services," the report said.

The idea, Kempthorne said today at the Department of the Interior, is that "any landscape architect, any horticulturist from anywhere in the world, when they come here they will see the standard of excellence . . . We have not yet achieved it, but we will."
The Mall presents special problems because of the sheer number of people who visit it every day throughout the year. There is a bit of a winter lull, but even on the coldest days, one can still find plenty of people using it. In summer it can be crowded beyond belief. In that context, it is hard to keep the grounds and facilities looking good.
The canal park, which stretches 184.5 miles along the Potomac River from Georgetown to Cumberland, Md., could at last see repairs to the 2.7 mile gap in the towpath at Big Slackwater, just below Williamsport, the report suggested.

The towpath, with its gravel surface and canopy of trees, is a haven for joggers, hikers, campers and cyclists. The gap, at a spot where the river has washed away sections of the towpath, has existed since the 1970s, according to John Noel, the park's partnerships coordinator.

It has forced park users to take a hazardous, six-mile detour along narrow country roads before rejoining the towpath. Thirty four people have been injured on the detour over the last five years Noel said. He said the gap repair would cost about $15 million.
The gap is in miles 85 to 87. That stretch of canal has been left uncovered in the annual midwinter bird survey because of the washout.