Sequestration Will Have Deep Impact On National Parks

A few weeks ago we shared leaked documents that gave us a glimpse of how the looming budget sequestration could impact America’s national parks. Those documents indicated that the National Park Service would implement a hiring freeze, push back the hiring of seasonal help and possibly cut hours and services in order to deal with the potential lack of funds. At the time, we speculated that those choices could have an impact on the overall experience for park visitors this year but as more details emerge it seems that reduced staff is just the tip of the iceberg.

According to a new report from the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR), the same source that shared the original leaked documents, the direct impact of sequestration on some of the country’s top national parks is becoming much clearer – not to mention grimmer. Some of the specific cuts include a delayed opening of some of the roads into Yellowstone this spring, which would affect more than 78,000 visitors and reduce revenues by $150,000. Similarly, the Grand Canyon would see delayed openings of its East and West Rim Drives, turning away an additional 250,000 visitors as well.

Delayed openings are just the start of the issues that travelers could be facing this year, however, as other parks will be closing down certain areas altogether. For instance, Grand Teton National Park will shutter two visitor centers and a preserve, impacting a combined 300,000 visitors, while Cape Cod National Seashore will close a visitor center as well, turning away 260,000 travelers. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will have to operate without five campgrounds that typically house 54,000 visitors on an annual basis and Mt. Rainier will close its Ohanapecosh Visitor Center, which serves 85,000 people each year.

The CNPSR report has even more information on the impact of sequestration, which automatically goes into effect on March 1 provided the President and Congress aren’t able to come to a budget compromise first. The document is a sobering read for fans of the national parks to say the least. I recommend that anyone planning a visit to one of the parks this year checks in ahead of time to find out exactly what services are being cut due to a lack of funds.

[Photo Credit: National Park Service]