|10:03 PM EDT||
Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Chairman, my amendment would designate $300,000 from the National Recreation and Preservation Account for a National Park Service study of whether applying the same rules and regulations to all parks maximizes the highest and best use of individual parks, for the system as a whole, and for Americans who use our parks.
This is but a study, and it would require the National Park Service to look at how NPS, cities, counties and States, as well as other countries, manage their diverse parks and to suggest, from the available best practices, appropriate ways to help NPS meet the needs of individual communities within the basic uniformity necessary to operate a national system of parks. Today, the NPS applies the same rules and regulations to all its parks, regardless [Page: H5565]
location, from the almost 1200-square-mile Yosemite National Park to small urban parks on street corners.
I support a unified national park system, but NPS should develop flexible standards that take into account the unique circumstances and population of individual parks and changing conditions throughout the country in keeping with congressional recognition of both conservation and recreation as primary reasons for our parks. The neighborhood parks in the District of Columbia, for example, serve a very different function from Yellowstone. Dupont Circle Park is a central urban community meeting
place in the District, not a place for enjoying the greenery of nature, as much as we love our parks for that purpose. On any given day, you will find people playing chess, sunbathing, playing Frisbee or passing out fliers.
Madam Chair, I have come to the floor because I have tried, unsuccessfully, to get the Park Service to make small adaptations perfectly compatible with their mission to allow for the people in the parks in my own district, and I am certain that other Members have found similar roadblocks. For example, the Park Service won't allow bike share stations on or near Federal parks, and they are not permitting the three golf courses in the District of Columbia to be run as a public-private partnership.
Both of these examples have run into the same one-size-fits-all concession concerns.
Yet the National Park Service could negotiate concession agreements that accommodate bike share in the future; and an inflexibility in Park Service insistence on concession contracts that do not allow capital investment resulting in an astonishing deterioration of invaluable capital-intensive golf courses in the District could give way to other approaches, such as public-private partnerships operating under long-term leases that would allow private funding to assist the Park Service with upgrading
and maintaining these public assets with Congress, which the taxpayers can't possibly by themselves maintain.
Inflexible, one-size-fits-all policies keep Americans from using our parks for compatible purposes, such as bike stations, or, worse, condemn unique iconic resources to inevitable decline.
Madam Chairman, my amendment is of the lowest possible cost. It is for a study to tell us what to do, to tell the Park Service what to do, to allow people throughout this country who live in very different locations and have to use our parks in very different ways just how this must be done compatible with a uniform National Park Service.
I ask that my amendment be approved.
I yield back the balance of my time.