Do National parks have million dollar restrooms?

My father is grumbling all the time. I hope I will not become like him … at least not any time soon. Anyway, one nice and peaceful day we were driving on that Yosemite Valley loop. Through my excitement I heard dad grumbling: “Valley of 1 Million dollars restrooms”.

Today, just out of curiosity I decided to check if there is anything behind dad’s grumbling. For that I tried to find some official Yosemite park financial report, but could not find it yet. This link says 6 millions were spent on park enhancements in 2013 and that “A copy of the audited financial report is available on request”. But I found some information in people blogs on Internet.

Link is re-print from USA TODAY article By Edward T. Pound:

Designed by six architects and engineers employed by the National Park Service, the two-story structure is truly unique: a $1 million, four-hole outhouse that will serve only a few thousand of the two million visitors who flock to Glacier each year.

Another blog also mentions that infamous outhouse in Glacier Park.

Unneeded ventures like the $1 million outhouse built in Glacier National Park in 1998 provide another example (Pound 1997). The park had other pressing needs, such as road repair, but politicians diverted funds to the outhouse.

Consider the employee housing situation at parks like Yosemite. New employee housing was built at the average cost of $580,000 per unit in 1997. This housing came in at two to four times the average construction rate for nearby local housing. Despite spending a small fortune, the new housing accommodated fewer than 60 of the park’s 5,000 employees, leaving some to dwell in tent-cabins without running water (Fretwell 1999b, 4).

For Congress, oversight should focus on efficiency of park operation, environmental quality, and other like-minded goals instead of mandates for gold-plated outhouses.

Another example, from General Accounting Office report submitted to the Ranking Minority Member Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands:

Concerns were expressed in an October 1997 hearing before the Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, House Committee on Appropriations, regarding the high cost of constructing new facilities in light of the Park Service’s $6.1 billion backlog of maintenance needs. Recent projects, such as new housing at Yosemite and Grand Canyon national parks and the high-cost outhouse at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, raised questions about the reasonableness of costs for construction projects. During the hearing, Interior’s Inspector General testified that private sector construction of housing near Yosemite would be at least $334,000 less than the Service’s $584,000 cost per house and at least $158,000 less than the Service’s $390,000 cost per house at the Grand Canyon. Also during the hearing, Subcommittee members raised a number of questions regarding the $330,000 outhouse at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area that cost more than 3 times the average cost of a new 2,000-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two baths in the same area.

Indeed, looks like we have $1M restrooms in our parks.

Being a climber I have noticed that parks focus their attention and set priorities to that group of visitors that bring more money to the park, i.e. those who stay in expensive places and mostly just drive through the park to make few photos.