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Tourism: Congress should fund Harpers Ferry park work

Politicians have a lot of ideas about where to spend money to help our recovery from the enormous economic setback caused by COVID-19.

A shop owner in Harpers Ferry has a fantastic idea for those truly looking for ways to help small businesses, but carry out the government’s other responsibilities as well. Spend on our national parks.

Cindi Dunn, owner of The Vintage Lady in Harpers Ferry, talked about her idea in an interview with a writer for The Pew Charitable Trusts.

While West Virginia does not have any of the true national parks (think Yellowstone or Shenandoah), it does have Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Visitors to that park sometimes visit Dunn’s shop, too. But Congress is far behind in funding necessary repairs and improvements to all National Park System facilities. According to Pew, there is about $10 million in deferred maintenance at Harpers Ferry, and $12 billion for the system as a whole.

Dunn described the support the national historical park gives to the community’s businesses as a “valuable relationship.” But tourists do not come to parks with a reputation for being poorly maintained or even shabby.

“These buildings and the surrounding lands represent our history, our heritage,” Dunn told Pew. “They house artifacts that tell the story of our great country. The park is challenged to keep these properties maintained to continue to tell this story for generations to come.”

And, again, if tourists visit Harpers Ferry or any other site in the NPS system, they often shop and dine in nearby communities. They spend money in small businesses and local economies so Congress does not have to.

Yes, $12 billion is a lot of money. Congress just managed to spend nearly $3 trillion and considered more without much question.

Dunn’s idea is a good one, and Congress should find a way.

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