Ramble On

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Recovery Act Impacts in Shenandoah National Park

Since last Spring as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, or the Recovery Act) started making news, I’ve been interested in finding out what projects might be funded in Shenandoah National Park – and how much money was going to be allocated to get them done.

On a recent weekend, as I was making my way home from Bearfence mountain, I saw the sign for a Recovery project at one point on Skyline Drive, which reminded me I wanted to do some more research on this item, so I checked a range of web resources at DOI.gov and the NPS.

A little bit of a detour before I get further into the topic. Mary and I have a “Recovery Act – Like” project going on at Hawksbill Cabin right now. We have finally hired someone to regrade the driveway and do a little work on the uphill portions of our lots to slow waterflow via diversions, culverts and repairs.

The National Park Service is receiving about $750 in Recovery Act funds – there are nearly 800 projects across the system. Now, while there is plenty of room to discuss the expected stimulus effect of the Recovery Act – the NPS projects are designed to “preserve and protect national icons and historic landscapes, improve energy efficiency and renewable energy use, remediate abandoned mine lands, and provide $15 million in grants to protect and restore buildings at historically black colleges and universities.” Apparently there is matching funding coming to improve park roads.

The Recovery Act page lists 37 projects valued at $27-million within the state of Virginia. Of these, I’ve been able to identify seven projects with a total value of about $17-million happening in Shenandoah National Park:

· Installing a waterline and demolishing an old parking area at Thornton Gap
· Painting historic administrative buildings throughout the Park
· Rehabilitating 11.1 historic miles of Skyline Drive
· Tree cutting and removal
· Boiler replacements at Big Meadows wastewater treatment plant
· Culvert repairs and replacements along Skyline Drive

During my May vacation I visited the HQ building in Luray to ask about the projects – at that time, while the project budgets had been developed, and the “shovel ready” list had been sent along to get into the program schedule, procurement activities hadn’t started yet and the program’s total budget and allocations weren’t finalized.

They are now, as indicated by the sign I passed on Skyline Drive recently. I also found an award for paving work going to a small paving company in Fairfax. I’d rather see these programs start with more substantive projects than paving, but since I work in the engineering industry one thing I have learned is that these are the “easy” ones to get started early – one of the key pressures associated with the Recovery Act program is to get quick results.

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