This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Like road-trippers with balding tires, Americans are loving their national parks into disrepair.
The National Park Service released a list of maintenance projects Monday that have been postponed and put off for years. The backlog of 2014 projects nationwide totals $11.49 billion up nearly $200 million since 2013.
Utah's share adds up to $278 million.
Dave Nimkin, southwest senior regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, says this is the worst possible time to defer routine upkeep at the national parks.
The parks' centennial is next year.
"As we approach the centennial and are looking to show off the great resources this country has," Nimkin said, "it is profoundly disappointing where the national parks are both in terms of operating shortfall and this now apparently sustained deferred maintenance as we head into the second hundred years."
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area around Lake Powell has the biggest backlog, coming in at $65.1 million.
Zion National Park is not far behind with $62.1 million in delayed projects.
Canyonlands' backlog totals $40 million. Bryce Canyon's is $37.6 million. And Arches' managers logged a $32 million to-do list.
The problem can be traced to increased visitation, which strains park resources, and decreased federal spending.
Close to 300 million people ventured into the parks in 2014, breaking a record of 287.2 million set in 1987.
All those visitors 3.1 million alone to Utah's Zion National Park, making it the seventh-most visited in the country take a toll on roads, trails, campgrounds and visitor centers.
President Barack Obama has proposed $3 billion for the National Park Service for fiscal 2016. The money is important, NPS officials and park advocates say, as they prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the service next year.
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said the parks should be in good order as even more visitors are encouraged to visit.
The president's budget will cover the most important nontransportation park assets, he said.
"As we invite more Americans to discover the special places in the National Park System during our centennial celebration," Jarvis said in a statement, "we need to have facilities that can accommodate them and provide the best possible visitor experience."
The NPS maintenance backlog is nothing new for Utah's parks.
In Zion, road work is being done on the Kolob Terrace Road. The road leading to Kolob Reservoir has been on a backlog list for two decades.
Nimkin, who is based in Salt Lake City, said pushing off maintenance can quickly boost the cost.
"These are similar choices, although on a much larger scale, of the ones we might face as homeowners," he said. "We might decide not to replace the roof this year and it might lead to leaks which then lead to problems with the ceiling.
"The parks have to deal with these kinds of choices due to budget shortfalls constantly."
Thirteen states including the District of Columbia and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico have deferred budgets greater than Utah's.
California tops the list with a delayed-maintenance budget totaling $1.72 billion.
The District of Columbia reports a need for $1.19 billion to upgrade eight park service units in the nation's capital.
"President Obama's proposal for these major projects," Jarvis said, "could address some of the National Park Service's large, and critical, deferred transportation projects."
National Park Service deferred maintenance in Utah parks (in millions):
Arches National Park $32.9
Bryce Canyon National Park $37.6
Canyonlands National Park $40
Capitol Reef National Park $4.2
Cedar Breaks National Monument $5.5
Dinosaur National Monument $12.2
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area $65.1
Golden Spike National Historic Site $3.3
Hovenweep National Monument $1.8
Natural Bridges National Monument $8.5
*Parashant National Monument $1.1
Timpanogos Cave National Monument $3.3
Zion National Park $62.1
* Parashant National Monument is co-managed by the NPS and BLM in Arizona, but the monument headquarters are in St. George, and the maintenance has to do with the facility in Utah.› XX