Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Budget cuts have put strain on national parks, and seem likely to put even more

National parks have been struggling for more than a decade against a tide of federal budget cuts that have left them short-staffed and with little money for upkeep and repairs. Construction and maintenance projects have been put on hold, and Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post reports "the signs of strain" are starting to show at parks across the country. (Photo: Gettysburg National Military Park)

Chatham Manor, the 241-year-old Georgian house that was a Union headquarters near Fredericksburg, Va., during the Civil War, is marred by overgrown gardens and a greenhouse with broken windows and rotting wood frames. The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches from Virginia to North Carolina, has a $385 million backlog of projects and hasn't been able to fill 75 positions since 2003. New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument doesn't have money to hire someone to protect its archeological ruins.

Eilperin reports parks have been pulling from maintenance and acquisition budgets to run day-to-day operations for years. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis told Eilperin his employees have been "entrepreneurial" in finding ways around budget cuts, but are "kind of running out of ideas at some point here." Park managers say they are scared about next year's federal budget and what might happen if a budget deal isn't reached by January. The current proposal from the House Appropriations Committee would cut 218 full-time jobs or 763 seasonal employees at the parks. (Read more)

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