National park units in New Mexico face millions in deferred maintenance

By:  Courtney Allen

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s national parks and monuments attract visitors from all over the world. However, the majority of those sites are in bad shape and need millions of dollars in order to fix them up. 

Many consider New Mexico’s national sites to be crown jewels of the state. “I am really glad we came because it is extremely different from any place we have been,” Sophia Kent, who is visiting from Austin, said.

These unique destinations are in need of some attention. “The surface on the trails could be a little bit more accessible and more stable for walking and more level,” tourist Carol Cawyer said. 

New Mexico’s national park units are facing more than $121 million in deferred maintenance. The National Park Service estimates that the work needed at Bandelier alone is more than $14 million. 

“The visitor’s experience is impacted,” Superintendent Jason Lott said. “Resources are impacted. We just have a body of work that needs to get done.” 

Lott said issues include potholes on walking trails, broken water fountains, wooden planks where bridges should be and deteriorating ancestral pueblo village sites. “To think that it might deteriorate in the future and my daughter couldn’t see this makes me really sad,” Kent said. 

Senator Martin Heinrich is part of a bipartisan coalition in Washington working to restore the sites. “Places like Bandelier, Chaco, Carlsbad Caverns… these are top tier destinations for people all around the world as well as from across the country. New Mexico is emblematic of what is at risk if we don’t take care of our parks,” Senator Heinrich said. 

Lott said it is essential to care for parks to preserve them for the next generation. “I think the investment in our parks is a great way to maintain the future of our parks and really enhance the experience and make sure our parks are places they should be,” Lott said. 

Senator Heinrich said he and other lawmakers are pushing for legislation to finance park improvements through federal funds.