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National Park Service: Gulf Islands Needs A $21 Million Makeover

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The backlog of needed renovations at America’s national parks is approaching $11.5 billion, including a $21 million laundry list at Gulf Islands National Seashore.

President Obama's budget proposal calls for a $433 million hike in national park spending, to three billion dollars total. That includes $243 million for the most urgent deferred upgrades, as the park system’s 2016 centennial approaches.

GINS Superintendent Dan Brown says every park has to deal with its own particular wear and tear from Mother Nature. The park takes a beating from the Gulf of Mexico and other elements, which he considers to be both a positive and a negative.

“The positive being that when we do have a major storm, we do get a tremendous amount of storm recovery money,” said Brown. “The downside is that the environment here is just exceptionally harsh, with the salt, sand, and the sun. It really takes its toll on buildings, as they age much more quickly than they would in other climates.”

Most of the renovation needs at the seashore involve its roads. Brown says a couple of projects this year are already funded: repaving five miles of Fort Pickens Road at a cost of nearly $3 million, and realigning a part of the road to help avoid high water and blowing sand. That costs around $6 million. Both projects will begin in early fall, after shorebird nesting season. 

Gulf Islands receives $400,000 per year for its most pressing work. Grants, along with entrance and camping fees are used for maintenance.

The president’s budget plan is getting a cool reception from some Republicans.  California Rep. Tom McClintock, who chairs the House Natural Resources subcommittee which oversees the park system, contends that there’s been a ten percent drop in attendance nationwide, along with fewer campers. 

“Well, I can never second-guess Congress,” said Brown, who adds the number of visitors at Gulf Islands, both the Florida and Mississippi locations, has remained stable for the past few years.

“Some years we have a little bit more, some years a little less,” Brown said. “Generally between 4.5 to 5 million visitors each year. And the facilities to support those visitors just need to be kept up, where it's roads, restrooms, picnic pavilions, etc.”

Gulf Islands Superintendent Dan Brown says if history is any yardstick, any resemblance between President Obama’s call for national park funding,and the amount which will eventually be approved by the GOP-controlled Congress, could be a coincidence.