Report details how your favorite National Park has been slashed by budget cuts

Closed road near Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park

flickr, Yuya Sekiguchi

You've probably already heard that America's National Parks are being affected by federal budget cuts, but exactly how has been detailed in a report released by the National Resources Committee Democrats last week. Now that sequestration has been fully implemented, you can find out the ways that our parks are being impacted.

For the report, superintendents and deputies at 23 parks in the National Park System were interviewed by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee to learn about necessary cuts being made, such as:

  • closing or delaying the opening of roads, campgrounds and facilities 
  • reducing hours of operation and visitor services 
  • deferring or forgoing maintenance including cleaning and general upkeep
  • offering fewer educational opportunities and other special programming
  • lessening capacity to handle emergency or law enforcement situations
  • reducing conservation efforts such as tracking endangered species and monitoring air and water quality 

All of these changes are likely to reduce the number of visitors to these parks, which also impacts nearby communities. An estimated $30 billion was spent in 2011 by parks visitors across the nation, which supported over 250,000 jobs and generated $9.34 billion in incomes. 

How has your favorite park had to cope with these deficits? Find out below:

  • Grand Canyon National Park will keep visitors centers open two hours less per day and cleaning of restrooms  will happen only once a day. In the event of extreme weather, roads won't open as quickly and repairs will be delayed. Interpretive programs will be cut by a third. With park rangers no longer traveling to classrooms, about 10,000 students won’t receive educational programming. (visitors center pictured right; credit: flickr, Grand Canyon NPS) 
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota is shortening the season by several months for its Painted Canyon visitor center, which is located at an interstate rest area and is important to local businesses, as it attracts more than 280,000 visitors a year.
  • Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park in Virginia is reducing the number of days its visitor center and historical sites are open, which will deny access to more than 20,000 visitors. 
  • Cape Cod National Seashore is canceling guided walks, educational talks and other  interpretive programs, which have previously attracted 49,000 visitors a year.
  • Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Arizona will be unable to host its annual two-day music festival, which draws 3,000 visitors every to its bordering town of 8,000 residents. Despite being the second hottest unit in the park system, it has had to defer regular maintenance of its heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
  • George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Virginia is providing educational programming to half as many school groups, is eliminating hourly tours of the grounds, and is providing only limited access to the Washington home.

  • Glacier National Park is reducing the number of days and hours that its visitor centers operate, is opening later or closing earlier (or both) at nine campgrounds, and will reduce road maintenance. (campsite pictured right; credit: flickr, jonathanw100)
  • Great Smoky National Park has experienced a $3.6 million cut in real dollars since 2010. It has experienced delays in repairs of roads flooded in January and was was forced to delay the opening of 10 campgrounds and five horse camps by a month. Several other campgrounds and picnic areas on the park’s periphery have been closed.
  • Isle Royale National Park in Michigan decided to cancel spring programs in local schools, affecting 5,300 students, eliminating programs at the local library, affecting another 1,300 children, and reducing its participation in shows and special events, affecting 4,500 visitors and area residents.
  • Ninety Six National Historic Site in South Carolina decided to eliminate Saturday educational programming and reduce visitor hours, resulting in 28,000 fewer visitors, a 40 percent drop, and cut outreach to local schools, reaching 350 fewer students. It will also be impaired in its efforts to maintain and restore the Revolutionary War site and combat invasive species.
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area in northern California will defer maintenance of historic structures and infrastructure, will not maintain certain roads, and will clean restrooms and pick up trash less frequently. It is reducing its law enforcement presence, which may mean the park cannot respond as quickly to issues of concern to the surrounding urban community.
  • Grand Teton National Park has experienced a $2.6 million cut in real dollars since 2010. It is closing one visitor center and cutting hours at another, closing 20 campsites and prohibiting vehicles in remote areas that cannot be cleaned. They have also canceled Junior Ranger programs, reduced campfire programs and interpretive walks, and declared that backcountry searches and responses will be delayed. “We've already started hearing from the people who go there, people who have their beloved secret places," said spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs. (backcountry pictured right; credit: flickr, akeg)
  • Olympic National Park in Washington will not open flush-toilet areas and will not service restrooms and pick up trash as frequently. It has reduced its capacity to respond if this summer is a bad fire season.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore in northern California may have trouble keeping its trails and roads clear as vegetation grows through the spring.
  • Everglades National Park has experienced a roughly $3 million cut in real dollars since 2010. It will mow less frequently along its main park road and is reducing patrols by law enforcement rangers. It may experience delays in restoration projects and is reducing monitoring programs for the park’s endangered and threatened species.
  • Curecanti National Recreation Area in western Colorado is not hiring a permanent law enforcement ranger to lead its seasonal search and rescue team.

  • Bryce Canyon National Park, which responded to 1,100 emergency events last year, will have reduced search-and-rescue and law enforcement capabilities. It is seeking project funding from the Park Service to do road repairs and replace the roof on its lodge, which has been delayed for seven years already. (lodge pictured right; credit: flickr, Al_HikesAZ)
  • Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland has delayed needed engine repairs for a patrol boat and is not replacing aging law enforcement vehicles. It will no longer monitor the water quality of streams flowing into the park.
  • Lowell National Historical Park has experienced an almost $3 million cut in real dollars  since 2010. It is deferring cleaning, repair and
    maintenance of four museum exhibits, which attract about 100,000 visitors and 50,000 students a year. It has already lost two valuable programs: a theater program for underserved youth and a greenhouse program that engaged youth and disabled populations.
  • Shenandoah National Park may not meet its water quality obligations and will have difficulty taking action on air quality issues that continue to obscure its mountain views.
  • War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam is reducing its monitoring of the island’s marine life and coral reef.
  • Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia has closed six buildings, including the one where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are canceling evening visitor hours.
  • Denali National Park in Alaska will do less monitoring of the park’s wolves, grizzly bear, mouse, caribou and Dall sheep. (wolf pictured right; credit: flickr, sandwichgirl)
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi will close three visitor centers a few days per week and guided tours of forts will be less frequent, and canceled at Fort Massachusetts. Some restrooms will be closed and most trash cans have been replaced by a pack-out-your-own-garbage policy. 
  • Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky has left four jobs vacant, including the park electrician so electric problems deep in the cave could lead to cancelled tours to the remotest sections, which attracted 28,000 people last year.
  • The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota replaced ranger-led tours on Cold War history with audio headsets.

For more information, including budget details, view the report here.


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