XENIA — Count Sarah Mays among the many who are excited about the future of a local national monument.
The Xenia mayor issued a statement this week lauding the U.S. Senate for passing a bill authored by Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that will provide billions for the deferred maintenance backlog for national parks and monuments, which includes the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce.
Portman’s Restore Our Parks Act, part of the larger Great American Outdoors Act, will direct $12.5 billion toward national park repairs, which includes at least $114 million in fixes at Ohio facilities.
“I applaud the senate for passing Senator Portman’s Restore Our Parks Act, which is included in the Great American Outdoors Act and will provide much needed funding to our national park system to carry out critical repairs,” Mays said. “This will include the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument and will help ensure the structure stays sound and available for use. Charles Young’s life is one from which future generations should continue to learn, and the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is key to telling his story.”
Portman introduced the Restore Our Parks Act with U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Angus King (I-ME) and has pushed the Senate to pass the bipartisan legislation during the last several years.
“Again, we fund the parks every year, but we fund them for the rangers, for the naturalist programs,” Portman said on the Senate floor. “We fund some of the good work that’s being done with schoolchildren and so on, but these big expenditures, like a new road or a new bridge or in the case of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a new railway system because the scenic railway system, the rails themselves need to be improved and replaced — those things are just too doggone expensive for an annual appropriation.”
Around $6 billion will be dedicated to immediate projects that need to be handled right away, Portman said. During the next five years that money will come from royalties from revenue from oil, gas and other energy projects on federal land, onshore and offshore.
The bill — as part of the larger act — will now be sent back to the U.S. House of Representatives. Portman said President Trump has voiced his support for the bill, and if it passes the House it will likely be signed into law.
Young was the first black man to achieve the rank of colonel in the United States Army and was the highest-ranking black officer in the regular army until his death in 1922.
“Charles Young was a true American hero,” Mays said. “After escaping slavery, he joined the Buffalo Soldiers … He eventually settled down in Wilberforce, Ohio, where his home is now commemorated as an historic site in the national park system.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.