We’re celebrating the centennial of the national park system this year, and this week the First Family visits Carlsbad Caverns. I hope they enjoy it as much as my family has.
For many of us growing up, the family vacation meant a road trip. Sometimes the destination was a national park. I saw the caverns the first time as a kid and passed it along when my son was old enough to understand what he was seeing. He loved it.
New Mexico has its share of treasures: Carlsbad Caverns, Bandelier, El Malpais, White Sands, Fort Union, Aztec Ruins, Capulin Volcano, Chaco Canyon, El Morro, Gila Cliff Dwellings, Manhattan Project, Pecos, Petroglyph, Salinas Pueblo Missions, Valles Caldera.
When we think of the national parks and monuments, it’s with a brush of nostalgia, but issues of 2016 will elbow their way in to the party.
As we know, Carlsbad Caverns was without its elevators until recently. Congress has underfunded the National Park Service for years, and the backlog of deferred maintenance has reached $11.9 billion; in New Mexico, it’s $113 million -- $44.4 million just at Carlsbad. Many sites are understaffed.
And yet our tourism industry counts on the 1.6 million visitors to New Mexico’s national parks and the $88.8 million they spent. The parks also provide 1,400 jobs here.