America’s national park system is getting wilder by the second—and that’s not great news for visitors. This country’s park system is made up of more than 85 million acres of outdoor space. It features pristine forestland, breathtaking canyons, and monumental former battlefields across all 50 states.
The problem is that all of that gets managed by the Department of Interior’s National Park Service, which currently faces an estimated $11.9 billion backlog in deferred maintenance requests. To help tame some issues, the National Park Foundation, NPS’s congressionally chartered charitable partner, just pledged more than $3.5 million to grow and expand local service corps, basically organizations that are especially good at restoring and maintaining trails.
In Texas, the Student Conservation Association has backed a specifically Latinx squad to restore trails that lead into Big Thicket National Preserve. In Washington, the Northwest Youth Corps has fielded a LGBTQ-inclusive crew to help maintain Mount Rainier National Park. In Tennessee, the Conservation Legacy Southeast Conservation Corps has an all-female team working at Red Trail at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park.
The goal of these identity-inclusive crews is to provide a sense of kinship and shared cultural experience at the same time as getting people out working in nature. And NPF has found service corps are extremely effective. In 2018, NPF claims that its support helped various corps around the country restore 400 miles of trail and planted more than 16,000 trees in a total of 38 parks.