Originally published in the Reporter Herald July 23, 2020
Ivanka Trump, daughter of and adviser to President Donald Trump, visited Rocky Mountain National Park Thursday morning in celebration of the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.
Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and RMNP Superintendent Darla Sidles joined the first daughter. All three gave brief remarks in the amphitheater at the Moraine Park Discovery Center.
Estes Park Mayor Wendy Koenig and Mayor Pro-tem of Grand Lake Jonah Landy also attended.
The legislation will fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million per year and provide up to $1.9 billion per year, for five years, to address the public lands maintenance backlog. The bill was introduced in March and passed the Senate in June. With the passage of the bill by the House, all that is left is for the president to sign it.
“The legislation, which passed the House yesterday has already passed the Senate and is being delivered to the president’s desk this week or early next week and he will sign it into law,” said Trump.
The sun was shining and the wind was whipping as she stood to address the small crowd of park rangers and invited guests.
“Given the wind, I think I am going to just talk,” she said as the wind blew a stack of papers from the podium. “This is arguably the greatest office in the world. So, you beat the president, officially, in having the greatest series of offices in government.”
Trump noted how important the national parks have been and will continue to be given the current pandemic. She emphasized how beneficial the outdoors has been to the physical and mental health of Americans.
“There has never been a more important time to celebrate and value and cherish our national park and recreational facilities that are open to all and bring joy to tens of millions of people any given year,” Trump said. “It is especially timely, in light of COVID, that we were able to sign the farthest-reaching conservation legislation since Theodore Roosevelt over 100 years ago.”
Trump also thanked the park rangers and all of those involved for maintaining and preserving the park for current and future generations. Secretary Bernhardt began his remarks by doing the same.
“In my view, there hasn’t been a day like today since Sept. 3, 1964,” he said. “That was the day the Land and Water Conservation Fund was signed into law by President Johnson. It was also the day the Wilderness Act became law.”
Although the fund was established in 1964, it wasn’t until 1987 that government officials realized the fund needed a greater commitment from Congress.
Since then, multiple presidents have tried to make that happen. The Great American Outdoors Act provides that money.
“Once the president signs the bill, all of us have a tremendous amount of work because we have to deliver on the expectations that have been created,” said Bernhardt. “What an opportunity and what a project to get to be a part of.”
RMNP is the third most visited national park in the country and saw over 4.5 million visitors in 2019, its highest total on record.
“The great thing … this legislation was actually introduced by Colorado’s own Senator Cory Gardner. Great bipartisan support, it is great to see that we can work together on things,” said Superintendent Sidles.
Sidles said the funds will go toward providing more accessibility; building maintenance; water, sewer and electrical maintenance; and trail upkeep. The bill will also help rehabilitate the Alpine Visitor Center, the highest elevation visitor center in the National Park Service.
After their remarks, the group traveled to the Bear Lake trailhead to hike the 0.7-mile loop around Bear Lake, stopping periodically to take in the sights and pose for photographs with random trail-goers. The first daughter took time to get a selfie with every person who asked.
On Friday morning Trump and Sen. Gardner planned to join Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services officials for a tour and roundtable talk at an undisclosed child-care facility in Colorado.