The National Park Service and US Forest Service have the honor of preserving natural and cultural areas valued by all, but they also have the responsibility to provide opportunities for visitors to enjoy and experience those areas.
And now, thanks to $24.8 million in funding by the Federal Transit Administration, visitors will have more options for getting around in America’s national parks and on other public lands. The grants--an interagency partnership of FTA with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture--are part of the Transit in Parks program, the brainchild of former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes.
From hybrid buses in Alaska's Denali National Park to a passenger ferry dock for Florida's Gulf Island National Seashore, grants will fund 46 different projects in 20 different states.
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff observed that, "By reducing traffic, Transit in Parks helps preserve the splendor of the national parks experience. The program also improves visitor mobility and ensures access to all, including persons with disabilities.”
In the late 1990s, Sen. Sarbanes recognized that our parks were suffering from an overload of vehicles. As one editorialist put it:
"The long lines of cars winding their way to some of the most beautiful sights on earth treat their occupants to the same gridlock they had traveled to escape. Some of our best loved national parks register air pollution levels rivaling those of downtown urban centers. The result is frustrated, often angry visitors and a degradation of the natural and historic resources that people come to experience."
Congress established the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program to halt that degradation, protect our parks and federal lands, and make these national treasures more enjoyable to everyone.
The grants we announced yesterday should go a long way toward achieving that goal.