SENECA FALLS — The Women's Rights National Historical Park has backlogged repairs, and it's not alone.
There is nearly $12 billion in deferred maintenance at national parks across the country. In New York, almost $1 billion is needed for repairs at 24 national park units.
The backlog at the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls is nearly $5 million. The National Park Service's Amy Bracewell, who is temporarily overseeing operations at the women's rights park, revealed that much of the deferred maintenance is preservation work that's needed in the visitor center, Wesleyan Chapel and other structures.
"It's mainly for the upkeep," Bracewell said.
While the work seems minor, it has been difficult for parks to secure the necessary funding for repairs. National parks have been operating on tighter budgets. President Donald Trump's 2019 budget proposal calls for a $474 million reduction for the National Park Service.
Trump's budget does include $246.3 million for construction projects and repairs — roughly 2 percent of the total maintenance backlog.
A bill introduced in Congress would use federal tax revenues from coal, gas, oil and renewable energy to rehabilitate national parks. The proposed fund would receive up to $1.3 billion annually from 2020 through the 2024 fiscal year.
The bill has 148 cosponsors in the House, including 11 from New York. U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik and John Katko support the bill.
Marcia Argust, project director of the Restore America's Parks campaign at Pew Charitable Trusts, cited a poll that found more than 75 percent of voters support legislation to fund repairs at national parks.
"We are off to a great start," Argust said. "I think that with talk about a national infrastructure package and the need for reauthorizing the Highway Trust Fund legislation there's great potential for addressing deferred maintenance needs."
An analysis conducted by the Cadmus Group for Pew Charitable Trusts found 9,847 jobs could be created or supported in New York if the repair backlog is addressed.
The repairs would help a significant economic driver in New York. National parks in the state drew more than 19 million visitors in 2017. There was $701.7 million spent by visitors in communities near national parks.
Supporters of the bill to address the maintenance backlog highlight another reason it's needed: To preserve historic sites for the future.
"We want to be able to hand it down from generation to generation," said Fred Capozzi, a Seneca Falls Historical Society member.