The Department of the Interior’s work to improve two of our country’s treasured landscapes was recently included in a new report from Vice President Joe Biden, “100 Recovery Act Projects that are Changing America.” The report highlighted the Recovery Act investments the National Park Service is making at Ellis Island and the Grand Canyon.More than 12 million immigrant steamship passengers passed through the doors of the Ellis Island immigration station between 1892 until it closed in 1954. After years of neglect, Ellis Island, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, was opened as a visitor center in 1990. Behind the main building sits the baggage and dormitory building built in 1909 to help house immigrants waiting to start their new life in America.
During the summer of 2010, the Department of the Interior has started work on a $6.7 million project to stabilize the 120,000 square foot baggage and dormitory building and remove hazardous materials. The work will ensure the structure is protected from the elements and made safe enough for future exterior and interior rehabilitation.
The seawall around the edge of Ellis Island is also in disrepair. It has sagged over the years, and some of the granite
blocks have even fallen off. A $20.9 million project currently underway will complete the stabilization and repair of the entire 6,700 foot seawall. In total, the National Park Service is investing $29.1 million from the Recovery Act at Ellis Island to help preserve the historic landmark while also creating jobs for the local area.
Out west in Grand Canyon National Park, the Park Service is investing nearly $14 million in Recovery funds to make a myriad of repairs and improvements. Included in the funding are two projects that are improving housing for the Havasupai tribe at Supai Camp, the tribe’s ancestral home at the Grand Canyon. The National Park Service has a long-standing legal agreement with the tribe for recognition and occupancy at Supai Camp, and upgrades to their housing were long overdue. One of these projects will improve housing and living conditions for tribal members by rehabilitating six communal buildings. This includes replacing roofing and windows, repainting, improving interior walls, and installing fire sprinkler systems. In addition, the National Park Service will build six new housing units for use by the tribe.
Other projects at Grand Canyon include $550,000 to reconstruct the popular South Kaibab Trail. Reconstruction will include trail resurfacing; rebuilding steps; stabilizing and preventative maintenance treatments to retaining walls including replacing those that have been lost to floods, slides, or erosion; and repairing and aligning damaged water features. The reconstruction project will significantly improve conditions for the over 200,000 annual visitors that use the trail.
The trails are a major part of the cross canyon corridor beat down daily by the feet of thousands of tourists and hundreds of mule hooves. Most of the trails in Grand Canyon National Park were originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps starting in 1933. That legacy continues today with work by the local Coconino Rural Environment Corps and the international American Conservation Experience. Both are associated with Americorps, leading President Obama’s call to service.
In 2008, mules made more than 9,000 trips in and out of the canyon just carrying visitors but they also serve as pack mules to carry supplies into the camps and concessions at the bottom of the canyon as well as carry trash out of the canyon.
You can read the Vice President’s entire report here.