Guest Columnist

Act now to protect Iowa's historic sites

National Park Service turns 102 on Saturday

This aerial photo shows the “marching bears” effigy (marching figure) mounds located in the Effigy Mounds National Monument near Marguette and McGregor. The prehistoric culture who built the mounds are thought to be the “Red Ocher” people in the Early Woodland and Hopewellian periods of time. The photo also shows linear shaped mounds and bird-shaped mounds. Archaeologists outlined the mounds with lime to make them more visible to observers. October, 1978. (Gazette Archives)
This aerial photo shows the “marching bears” effigy (marching figure) mounds located in the Effigy Mounds National Monument near Marguette and McGregor. The prehistoric culture who built the mounds are thought to be the “Red Ocher” people in the Early Woodland and Hopewellian periods of time. The photo also shows linear shaped mounds and bird-shaped mounds. Archaeologists outlined the mounds with lime to make them more visible to observers. October, 1978. (Gazette Archives)

It should come as no surprise that the tourism economy in our region of Iowa benefits greatly from visitors to the Effigy Mounds National Monument in Allamakee County and Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch.

Park visitors spent nearly $16 million in Iowa in 2016 alone.

What may not be realized is that this economic engine and source of pride for our state is threatened by an $11.6 million deferred maintenance backlog in our national park system — nearly half of which affects historic and cultural resources.

The National Park Service has been in existence for more than 100 years. In fact, Saturday is the anniversary of the date in 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the park service. At that time, 35 national parks and monuments already had been established — and hundreds more would follow, including two sites in the Hawkeye State.

The 80,000 annual visitors to Effigy Mounds can easily feel the effects of the park’s $2.3 million deferred maintenance backlog. Its outdated sewer system forced the cancellation of its winter film series, and the installation of unsightly portable toilets.

At the home where Herbert Hoover was born and lived and where his life and legacy is honored, deferred maintenance totals $2.2 million.

We cannot afford to let deferred maintenance threaten our state’s heritage any longer.

Fortunately, a solution is at hand. New bipartisan legislation was recently introduced in Congress that would provide reliable and dedicated funding to address what decades of chronic underfunding have done to our parks.

We urge Iowa’s congressional delegation to support the Restore Our Parks Act in the U.S. Senate and the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands legislation in the U.S. House to help to protect our natural and historic treasures and ensure that local communities dependent on park visitors will continue to flourish.

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• Val Reinke is executive director of Allamakee County Economic Development and Tourism, headquartered in Waukon. Kevin A. Rogers is executive director of Main Street West Branch, home of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum and National Historic Site.

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