A focus on jobs within the National Park system brought Senator Rob Portman to Athens County on Thursday, Aug. 27. The Republican senator made stops at Wayne National Forest and the Baileys Trail System.
While at Wayne National Forest in Nelsonville, Portman met with the forest’s leadership to discuss the recently signed into law Great American Outdoors Act, the legislation that aims to support more than 100,000 jobs over the next five years by rebuilding park infrastructure. The Act hopes to address the more than $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service, these projects include roads, building and utility maintenance, among others.
Wayne National Forest has $4.6 million in deferred maintenance which could be eligible for funding under the Great American Outdoors Act.
“I enjoyed my visit to the Wayne National Forest. We discussed how the recently signed into law Great American Outdoors Act will help fund critical projects here at the Wayne,” said Portman.
While in Athens County, Portman also visited the trailhead of the Baileys Trail System in Chauncey, where the senator discussed the importance of the system. Portman has a history of supporting the Baileys, having requested support for the Trail System from the Appalachian Regional Commission in 2019.
Currently 14 miles of the Baileys Trail System have been completed and are open to the public.
Phase 2 of construction on the System began in early July. The project will provide 11 more miles of trail which will continue further into the Wayne National Forest, eventually connecting the Doanville Trailhead.
Once complete the System will be 88 miles of trails that patrons will be able to utilize for mountain biking, walking and hiking.
While visiting the Baileys, Portman discussed the recently introduced Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees (REPLANT) Act. The bipartisan act aims to provide funding for the U.S. Forest Service to replant forestland in national forests using the Reforestation Trust Fund.
Portman introduced the legislation on July 29, with Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and U.S. Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Kim Schrier (D-WA) and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA).
“This legislation provides a wide range of benefits, including improving our environment by sequestering carbon dioxide and reinvigorating the ecosystems and native plant and animal species that depend on healthy forests, while also creating jobs and recreation opportunities on our forestland,” Portman said.
Wayne National Forest has received nearly $400,000 over the past five years from the RTF for reforestation needs, largely due to pests and diseases. Reports show that the Wayne National Forest has a backlog of 1,800 acres, which equates to around 550,000 trees in need in replanting.
“These bipartisan efforts will help us do our part to preserve the Wayne Nation Forest and other national treasures for generations to come,” Portman said.
Thorne is the editor of The Athens Messenger.