‘We have a responsibility to care for and maintain them’
With 29 counties, two time zones and more than 800 miles of U.S.-Mexico border, the 23rd Congressional District of Texas is certainly one of the most unique congressional districts in the nation. Throughout my two and a half years serving as your Representative, I’ve crisscrossed TX-23 numerous times, meeting with constituents and exploring the variety of sites these 29 counties have to offer, including the seven incredible National Parks I have the distinct honor of advocating for in Congress.
National Parks are an integral part of the American experience, and the seven in our district, including Big Bend and the San Antonio Missions, provide immeasurable cultural, environmental, and economic benefits. Each park’s landscape has a unique story that allows us to understand our past, appreciate our present, and know where we’re going in the future. For these parks to remain beautiful and accessible, we have a responsibility as a nation to care for and maintain them.
The National Park Service (NPS) was created just over 100 years ago to do just that. Today, NPS manages more than 84 million acres comprised of over 400 significant cultural, historic, and natural areas across all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and four territories. As you might imagine, it takes a lot of money to adequately maintain the unique needs of every property. Unfortunately, NPS currently faces a nationwide backlog of more than $11 billion to repair roads, visitor facilities, trails, and other park structures, $147 million of which needs to be spent right here in Texas.
Recently, I toured Mission San Jose in San Antonio to view examples of deferred maintenance needed to preserve the original foundation of the Mission walls and rafters. With flooding and humidity, the walls of the rooms swell and move causing visible cracks in the walls and foundation. But the needs at many National Parks are often the less glamorous projects like crumbling roads, leaky plumbing, and adequate bathroom facilities that are necessary to keep these spaces accessible for everyone.
This is why I introduced the National Park Service Legacy Act with my colleagues to fix our parks. The bipartisan bill would address the present backlog by distributing currently unassigned federal mineral revenues back into a restoration fund. The funds can be used for overdue repairs so that our parks can remain beautiful and accessible for future generations of park-goers to enjoy.
I take great pride in our National Parks, and will continue to protect them in Congress. Big Bend, the Guadalupe Mountains, the San Antonio Missions, Fort Davis National Historic Site, the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, Amistad National Recreation Area, and El Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail are treasures we must protect for years to come. With the summer season upon us, I encourage you to experience these remarkable destinations for yourself.