National Park Service nominee knows Shenandoah, other Virginia landmarks

David Vela, the superintendent of Grand Teton National Park who was recently nominated to become Director of the National Park Service, knows Shenandoah National Park well as former NPS South Regional Director.

By NPS
David Vela, superintendent of Grand Teton National Park who is the nominee to become director of the National Park Service, meets here with Virginia Sen. Mark Warner. Vela once oversaw Virginia’s 22 national parks and affiliated areas, plus its 120 National Historic Landmarks like Monticello and Montpelier.

Vela, who if confirmed will become the first-ever Hispanic director of the National Park Service, met in recent days with Virginia Sen. Mark Warner to discuss the need to address the $12 billion NPS maintenance backlog.

In Virginia, the senator noted, with its 22 national parks and affiliated areas, as well as its 120 National Historic Landmarks like Montpelier and Monticello, the backlog has grown to more than $1 billion, ranking third among all states in total deferred maintenance, trailing only California and the District of Columbia (Vela also previously was superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia).

Warner is author of the Restore Our Parks Act, a bipartisan bill that would address the maintenance backlog. Besides lawmakers, it is supported by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Outdoor Industry Association, and dozens of additional conservation and recreation organizations.

“I was pleased to hear that Mr. Vela understands the devastating effects this chronic underfunding can have on an already old and crumbling NPS infrastructure and has vowed to be a partner so we can work with the [Trump] administration to get this done,” said the Democrat.

Vela’s nomination reached Capitol Hill this month. A confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at editor@rappnews.com.