Leah Barkoukis

Whenever the federal government steps in, inefficiency, dysfunction and waste seem to be quick to follow—and the National Park Service is no different. In a new report titled, “PARKED! How Congress’ Misplaced Priorities are Trashing Our National Treasures,” Sen. Tom Coburn documents how the agency’s bloated bureaucracy has led to wasteful spending and resulted in the neglect and decaying of national parks. Via Fox News:

Taxpayers shell out $52,000 a year to maintain the home of Black History Month founder Carter Woodson. Yet the tiny, dilapidated row house in northwest Washington D.C., with a "No Trespassing" sign and iron bars blocking the front door and windows hasn’t seen a visitor in the seven years since the National Park Service bought it for $2.1 million and designated it a National Historic Site.

Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., points to the house as one tiny symbol in a sea of dysfunction in the National Park Service. The Service, with its comparatively small budget, is, he says, a microcosm for wasteful spending in the federal government.

A report released Tuesday by Coburn's office finds the National Park Service devotes huge portions of its budget to the purchase of more and more federal properties and land, even while the country’s most treasured national parks are falling into disrepair and neglect.

But he doesn’t place the blame squarely on the Park Service.

“Long before the government shutdown and sequestration, our parks had become a physical manifestation of Congress’ dysfunction,”Coburn said in a statement.

“For years, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have put their parochial desires ahead of the nation’s best interest. Funding for low-priority and obscure parks earmarked by lawmakers has come at the cost of caring for our national treasures like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the National Mall and Independence Park in Philadelphia. Last year alone, the National Park Service put off more than a quarter billion dollars in much needed maintenance projects, adding to the $11.5 billion maintenance backlog already threatening the health, safety, and accessibility of park visitors.”

Coburn concludes the report with a series of recommendations, including how to eliminate the maintenance funding shortfall and hold Congress and the administration accountable.

“I hope this report inspires my colleagues to set common sense priorities and make sure our parks reflect our nation’s greatness rather than Washington’s incompetence,” he said.


Leah Barkoukis

Leah Barkoukis is the Managing Editor at Townhall Magazine.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography