Filed under: Scenic Byways/Historic Routes, State & National Parks
Sequester Delays National Park Openings
If you are planning on an early camping trip to one of our many federally funded National Parks, it will be a good idea to check and see if the campgrounds are open. You may also find a delay in the opening of visitor centers and picnic areas.
The sequester that recently kicked in is already having a significant impact on the Shenandoah National Park on the Skyline Drive which runs from Afton Mountain to Front Royal in Virginia. Other National parks, such as Yellowstone, are also cutting back and delaying campground openings and removal of snow from park roads that allow access.
Shenandoah National Park is delaying the opening of campgrounds from 1 to 4 weeks depending on their location and normal visitation numbers. They will also be cutting back on seasonal hiring and eliminating some programs.
All of this is due to a 5% reduction in funding. For a park that has a $12.5 million dollar budget, this translates to $625,000 in cuts.
One of the major programs designed to improve the safety of visitors is Preventative Search and Rescue. This program placed park personnel on trailheads checking to see if hikers had water, a plan, and information on how to stay safe on the trails. This program led to a 25% decrease in actual search and rescue operations after it was implemented. It is one of the programs that will be eliminated in the Shenandoah Park due to the cuts. In addition, about 200 interpretive programs given by Rangers to the public will have to be scraped.
Without getting into political agendas, I find this much like “cutting off your nose to spite your face” economics. Delayed openings will reduce visitors to the parks and as such prohibit the collection of campground fees along with access fees to enter the park. Considering that the parks typically get to keep about 80% of these collected fees this translates to a loss of approximately $50,000 to $60,000 in additional income.
With the economy in the dregs, especially the hard hit communities surrounding the Shenandoah National Park, the loss of jobs provided by seasonal employment will surely hurt. Since visitors to the park purchase goods supplied by local vendors and craftsmen it is inevitable that they will see reduced income. Tourism to areas surrounding the park will decline translating to less business for restaurants, lodging, and shopping. Not only is this income lost but sales tax, meals tax and lodging taxes collected will be lower than they would without the delayed openings and services.
All of this leaves one scratching his head and wondering how this will ultimately result in saving money?
Our National Parks are truly one of our most valuable treasures. With recent ideas suggested that range from selling them to private corporations or just plain closing them sends fear running up my spine.
As I was once asked by a very close friend, “Why do they call it common sense when it isn’t common at all?”
What are your feelings on changes to our National Parks access? How will these changes effect you and your family, or perhaps your vacation/camping plans? Please feel free to share your views but kindly refrain from engaging in a discussion of political differences or political priorities in the process.