This is a very happy Earth Day for this national parks geek. The $750 million stimulus funding that is being applied to the parks has been announced.

A brief overview of some of the project was included in this report in USATODAY:

More than 750 projects in 48 states are expected to create 30,000 to 40,000 jobs starting this summer. That includes 15,000 jobs in a proposed 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps....

The stimulus funds won't clear the National Park Service's $9 billion maintenance backlog, says spokesman David Barna, but they will pay for long-deferred projects at many iconic sites:

• Independence Hall, birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, will get nearly $5.5 million to repair its crumbling tower and replace a weathervane, clocks and masonry.

• Ellis Island in New York Harbor will get $26.1 million to repair a sea wall and stabilize the 1908 baggage and dormitory building.

• The Old Courthouse in St. Louis will get nearly $5 million to replace a leaky roof that has damaged seven rooms. The site of the pivotal Dred Scott slavery trial that hastened the Civil War is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and "almost as much of an icon as the Gateway Arch itself," park Superintendent Tom Bradley says.

• Shenandoah National Park in Virginia will get nearly $9.5 million to reconstruct stone walls and wood guardrails at 16 overlooks.

And there are going to be solar panels in 26 national parks, trail repair in many, a new wastewater treatment plan in Yellowstone--the list of 800 projects [pdf] is full of important park infrastructure projects to help mitigate the damage done from years of deferred maintenance. That all help makes up, a little bit, for the news that the wilderness is going wireless.

The new investment, and the news from my friend Joel Connelly that Ken Burns has a new documentary on the national parks previewing in September:

Can any responsible person be found, especially among folks who fought national parks, who are still pecking away at the idea?

"We're looking for 'em," joked Ken Burns.

The renowned public TV documentary producer is here on a two-day visit to promote his upcoming series: "The National Parks: America's Best Idea".

The six-part documentary is not only a tribute to natural wonders, but to the oft-abused citizens who fought to preserve unique landforms and places of great beauty from exploiters, despoilers and profiteers....

National parks are an idea gifted to the world by America and visionary Americans. "We invented it: Everybody has followed us," Burns joked.... "The difference here is that creation of parks was bottoms up," Burns said. "Despite all the talk about 'elitists,' it is democratic in its origins."

I guess that's the takeaway about our national parks. They are the best of democracy and their enjoyment by as many people as possible. The improvements the stimulus projects will bring will make that experience even better, cell phones or no.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 04:44 PM PDT.

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