ASHFORD, Wash. - It's no secret our country's national parks need a bit of upkeep in some areas, but the situation is so tough at Mount Rainier National Park that you might not be able to visit some of your favorite spots as the weather warms up.
Park officials told FOX 13 News that there's a long list of needs for repairs, but only so much money to go around.
At the park, one of the biggest issues to be addressed is the only road that takes visitors east to west through. In the words of park officials, it's "old and has taken a lot of abuse over the years."
If it isn't addressed, a report said it could mean "catastrophic failure." Roads, bridges and trails are in need of big work.
"Most of the infrastructure here in the park was built in the 1920s and 30s, and just like a home, a national park requires an influx of maintenance to keep it operating," said park spokesperson Terry Wildy.
Pictures from the NPS show the Grove of the Patriarchs and suspension bridge suffered flooding damage in the fall, too.
That main attraction will not be open this summer, Wildy told FOX 13 News.
She said they have been approved for emergency funding for Carbon River and to start planning and redesigning the suspension bridge, but that work will take time– and they don't have much.
"The park sees about 1.5 million visitors every year. The vast majority of those happen in the summer months and most of those visitors come on weekends. So summer is a very busy time around here. It is also the only time that we can do work on major construction projects," Wildy said.
One of the most urgent projects in the park is Stevens Canyon Road.
A park document said critical action needs to be taken or there will be more accidents, and possibly catastrophic failure.
"Stevens Canyon Road is probably the largest proposed project that we have in the park. Stevens Canyon Road is the main east-west thoroughfare in the park, so it is the primary way that folks get from the popular Paradise area down to Highway 123 on the east side," Wildy said.
Mount Rainier National Park has been allotted $30 million as part of the Great American Outdoors Act passed in 2020. More than $27 million of that grant is going to Stevens Canyon Road.
"That road is subject to alpine weather, avalanches, rock fall, and it was finished in the 1950s, so some sections of that road, they've been without major repair for 65 or 70 years," Wildy said.
But Wildy said it will take a construction company with a special skill set, workers who can handle the alpine conditions and an approach that protects the environment.
To top it off, it all must be done within the short summer timeframe.
The Stevens Canyon Road project is expected to last at least two summers, she said.
That could mean a favorite trail is off-limits as crews try to preserve and restore our parks.
FOX 13 also reached out to Olympic National Park for any projects they have in the works, though officials there declined an interview.
A fact sheet from 2018 shows about $152 million in total maintenance needs, but a spokesman told FOX 13 News that none of the projects will impact visitors right now.
Park officials encourage visitors to check ahead on park websites for any potential work, issues or delays.
They said people can also plan their visits, activities, check on weather conditions and research locations online before they arrive.
"We just ask for folks' patience and hopefully, a little bit of inconvenience will result in decades of continued access to their public lands," Wildy said.
They also said people can check park social media pages for updates.
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