Ohio’s historic sites, such as Taft’s birthplace, need repairs. New funds could help preserve them.

William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States, is shown in an undated photo.
Caption
William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States, is shown in an undated photo.

A bill gaining support in Congress could help preserve some of Ohio’s most historic sites, including the Cincinnati house where William Howard Taft was born and grew up.

Sen. Rob Portman is building support for his bill that would alleviate around a backlog of needed repairs at many of these sites. If it becomes law, the bill would provide $6.5 billion over five years to address $12 billion in maintenance that has been delayed at National Parks Service locations.

So far, more than 200 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 36 senators have signed on to co-sponsor the Restore Our Parks Act, Portman said during a Wednesday press conference in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve got to step up big time,” Portman said. “This would be the most historic parks bill in several generations because it would deal with this huge problem.”

Ohio’s eight national park sites would get more than $100 million from Portman’s bill, the senator’s office said last year.

The William Howard Taft National Historic site in Cincinnati would get more than $2 million and the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe would receive more than $2.1 million from Portman’s bill.

The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument could get $1.9 million, the First Ladies National Historic Site may get $1.1 million and the James A. Garfield National Historic Site may be given nearly $719,000, according to Portman’s office.

Another site in the region where Orville and Wilbur Wright decided to attempt what most others thought was impossible would see about $1.8 million. The fourth Wright Cycle Company shop at 22 S. Williams St. in Dayton is in need of repair, after falling victim to years of deferred maintenance, said Kendell Thompson, superintendent for the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The cycle company operated from the Williams Street location between 1895 and 1897 and its where the Wright Brothers’ work with bicycles led to exploring the idea of manned flight.

“We have outstanding deferred maintenance projects there that range from more mundane upkeep efforts such as updating the alarm system to protect the artifacts on display and replacing the hot water heater, to more significant projects like rehabilitating the flooring where the Wrights stood,” Thompson said.

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island would receive the most funding at $47.7 million while Ohio Cuyahoga Valley National Park would receive more than $45.8 million.

Though Portman’s proposal already has substantial support from congress, the bill still needs approval before it can head to president Donald Trump’s desk.

The Department of the Interior, which oversees National Parks, expressed support for Portman’s legislation in its 2020 budget proposal. But, the department’s budget also suggests there should be an overall funding decrease of nearly $495 million for the National Parks Service.

Some of the country’s most in-need parks include Yellow Stone National Park and Yosemite National Park. Yellow Stone has delayed maintenance costs of $563 million while Yosemite has an event bigger backlog at $645 million, according to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

At some parks, facilities are in such need of repair that certain restrooms are closed or entire campgrounds are unusable, Portman said Wednesday.

“Let’s fix these things now so that the costs don’t compound, so it doesn’t become more expensive for taxpayers,” Portman said. “It’s our responsibility. It’s a debt unpaid.”