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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / A damaged portion of Glenn Kelly Road in Chickamauga National Military Park is seen in this July 1, 2020 photo. According to park superintendent Brad Bennett, the majority of the park's needs is the resurfacing of some of the parks 25 miles of paved roads. U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler announced that $15.4 million in deferred maintenance projects at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park will be addressed through a fund created by the Great American Outdoors Act at no additional cost to taxpayers.

The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park will get a much-needed upgrade thanks to a bipartisan bill passed by Congress this week.

The Great American Outdoors Act will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and help address a nearly $20 billion maintenance backlog in national parks and other land management agencies.

The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is expected to receive $15.4 million for deferred maintenance projects.

Brad Bennett, superintendent of the park, said the majority of the money will be used to resurface the park's 25 miles of paved roads such as Glenn Kelly and Brotherton roads in the Chickamauga Battlefield, where visitors explore the landscape of the 1863 Civil War battle and access more than 50 miles of hiking, bicycling and equestrian trails.

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Chickamauga Battlefield

Bennett said the park actually has about $30 million in backlogged maintenance for the more than 9,000 acres in Tennessee and Georgia.

The park was able to secure similar funding to the tune of $6 million to resurface three major roads in Chickamauga Battlefield: Lafayette Road in 2015, Reed's Bridge Road in 2018 and McFarland Gap Road in 2019.

The 73-25 vote on Wednesday sent the Great American Outdoors Act to the House, where approval is expected. It would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century. The bill would spend about $2.8 billion per year on conservation, outdoor recreation and park maintenance.

The money to fund the projects will not cost taxpayers anything. The funds come from drilling royalties paid to the federal government.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, celebrated the bill passing the Senate this week, saying it successfully invests in Georgia's infrastructure, will create jobs and support local economies.

"Georgians of all ages have long looked to our state parks to enjoy fresh air, preserve natural treasures, honor state history and promote Georgia tourism," Loeffler said in a statement. "The Great American Outdoors Act will help to ensure both current and future generations can enjoy the pristine beauty of our natural resources in Georgia and across the county."

The legislation includes Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander's bill to restore the country's 419 national parks and cut in half the national parks' $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog, which the senator said will be "the biggest boost to our national parks in 50 years."

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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