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Colorado's national parks have millions in deferred maintenance

The biggest portion of that comes from Rocky Mountain National Park.

COLORADO, USA — As more people continue to visit Colorado, the national parks in this state need millions of dollars in repairs.

But the list of projects can’t be completed immediately.

According to 2018 data from the National Parks Service, deferred maintenance in Colorado’s national parks, monuments, and historic sites totaled $247,592,641.

The biggest portion of that comes from Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).

“We have $84 million dollars in deferred maintenance,” said RMNP Spokeswoman Kyle Patterson. “Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the country. We are 104-years-old this year, and just as anything else, aging has a tendency to impact a variety of infrastructure in this park.”

Patterson said most of the maintenance needs are related to the park trails, buildings, and roads.

“Our roads are old. Bear Lake Road was completed in 1928, Trail Ridge Road [was completed] in 1932. They’re high mountain roads too, so they deal with all kinds of environmental impacts,” she explained.

“They get snow. They get plowed. They get more snow. They get melting. They get freezing temperatures at night. They get intense sun during the day. They have to withstand some pretty extreme environmental conditions.”

Patterson said the park “chips away” at maintenance every year. This year, she said RMNP is undergoing a pavement preservation project, which will improve the parking lots and sections of Trail Ridge Road and Bear Lake Road.

There has also been ongoing work in recent years to a water system in the park.

“We had corroded rusty pipes. Now those pipes are nice and new and those provide water to Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, where we see hundreds of thousands of people come during the year,” she said.

This week, the Washington Post reported the National Park Service is diverting $2.5 million dollars from entry fees to help pay for President Trump’s Independence Day parade in Washington D.C.

RELATED: Report: $2.5 million in funds to fix national parks diverted to Trump July 4th event

The National Park Service wouldn't say if any of that money would be diverted from Colorado’s National Parks.

"We have no information to provide at this time,” was the initial statement provided in an email by Mike Litterst, the Chief of Communications for National Mall and Memorial Parks.

When pressed for more information, Litterst replied by email:

"The Department of the Interior is committed to providing the American people a fantastic celebration of our nation’s birthday. We are doing so consistent with the Department’s mission and historical practices. We hope everyone enjoys the Fourth."

Back in Colorado, NPS data shows this state's national parks have millions of dollars in deferred maintenance.

  • Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site (BEOL)  - $2,572,285
  • Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park (BLCA) - $7,790,636
  • Colorado National Monument (COLM) - $21,171,703
  • Curecanti National Recreation Area (CURE) - $15,568,017
  • Dinosaur National Monument (DINO) - $27,881,343
  • Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (FLFO) - $2,946,023
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve (GRSA) - $8,069,390
  • Hovenweep National Monument (HOVE) - $166,712
  • Mesa Verde National Park (MEVE) - $76,307,055
  • Rocky Mountain National Park (ROMO) - $84,100,770
  • Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site (SAND) - $857,819
  • Yucca House National Monument (YUHO) - $160,889

Pam Rice, Superintendent of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, said they recently completed two water line projects. But in the future, the Visitor Center will need a new roof, and the campground rock walls need repairs.

According to Rice and Patterson, RMNP and the Great Sand Dunes keep 80 percent of the fees collected in those parks. Of that money, 55 percent is directed to deferred maintenance. The parks also receive federal funding for maintenance projects.

And the parks just keep getting busier.

“We have seen a 42% increase in visitors since 2012,” Patterson said about RMNP.

“In some ways it’s a good problem to have, right? Because you have visitors that are loving and enjoying their national park. There’s also challenges to keep up with that level of visitation when it comes to resource protection, visitor and staff safety, operational capacity. What can our park take and our infrastructure take, and overall visitor experience… we want to make sure were providing a great visitor experience for folks, as well.”

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