To the editor:

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center is the official interpretive center for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The area includes one of the oldest continuously-occupied places in North America (over 11,000 years) and our Discovery Center helps people understand how this canyon was formed and what it took for humans to thrive along its banks for millennia.

We are an important part of an amazing tapestry of iconic cultural, geographic and historical landmarks that enrich Oregon. We are proud to promote and encourage exploration of other treasures that showcase nationally significant places in the Beaver State, many of which are protected as national park sites, like Crater Lake, Oregon Caves, Fort Clatsop, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and John Day Fossil Beds.

National Park Week was recently held to celebrate national parks as places to recreate, learn about our history, and find solace in nature. We encourage people to explore these amazing places, being mindful of the assets necessary to allow visitors the opportunities to witness these natural and cultural resources. Roads, bridges, trails, and interpretive markers and displays provide easy access and educational opportunities for these sites. Unfortunately, many of these essential elements need repair and rehabilitation.

Right now, national park sites in Oregon are facing an infrastructure backlog of over $127 million. This includes maintenance needs for visitor centers, historic buildings, access roads, and drinking water supplies, among other necessities. The total deferred maintenance backlog for the National Park System, which includes Yosemite, Acadia and everything in between, is nearly $12 billion.

We believe that one of the best ways to get folks excited about history and nature is to get them outside. The deferred maintenance backlog problem in our national parks is a threat to our continued access and enjoyment of these areas. That is why Congress must provide dedicated funding to fix our parks, and they can do that by passing bills (S. 500 and H.R. 1225), supported by many in the Oregon delegation, that will steer funding towards this problem.

This week, get out and enjoy national parks in Oregon and remember to join us in supporting congressional action that preserves these places for our continued enjoyment and exploration.

Carolyn Purcell,

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

The Dalles

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