The Obama administration celebrated Earth Day on Wednesday by announcing $750 million worth of stimulus-funded projects to improve national parks and monuments. That included at least some money for 12 of the 13 National Park Service units in Utah, or all of them but Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, "These projects — at places like Ellis Island in New York and Dinosaur National Monument in Utah — are ready to go and will create jobs in communities across the country."
In all, Utah parks and monuments will receive $24.1 million worth of projects.
One of the projects most ballyhooed by the administration is spending $13.1 million to finally demolish condemned portions of the Quarry Visitor Center at Dinosaur and replace them. That center covers a cliff where fossils were carefully quarried and exposed in place for visitors to see.
Visitation at Dinosaur has plummeted in recent years as that building, the main attraction of the monument, remained closed — and the monument suffered the worst visitor satisfaction ratings in the park service. The monument on the Utah-Colorado border will receive more money than all but a handful of parks nationally.
Salazar listed the work at Dinosaur with such other high-profile projects as spending $5.5 million to rehabilitate the Independence Hall tower in Philadelphia; $8.8 million to stabilize the Ellis Island Baggage and Dormitory Building; $30.5 million to repair the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.; and $9 million to replace an old wastewater treatment plant in Yellowstone National Monument.
"By investing $750 million to restore and protect America's most special places, we are creating a new legacy of stewardship for our national park system while helping our economy stand up again, Salazar said."
Acting National Park Service Director Dan Wenk said, "We will fix trails, invest in energy-efficient vehicles, build new visitor facilities, clean up abandoned mine sites, increase our ability to generate power from the sun, and finally complete overdue maintenance on our buildings and roads."
Salazar said all of the projects are for long-standing priorities of the National Park Service based on its planning process. Projects were also chosen on their ability to create the largest number of jobs in the shortest time, and to create a lasting value.
Among some popular parks not far from Utah, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado received $14.6 million to replace failing waterlines, buy buses and make energy improvements; Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona received $10.9 million for repairs to trails, camps and buildings; and Great Basin National Park in Nevada received $85,000 to repair trails.
Also, Yellowstone National Park received $13 million for repairs to numerous boardwalks, trails, and water facilities; and Grand Teton National Park received $18.8 million to rehabilitate trails and buildings and to remove several unneeded structures.