Report: 'America's Best Idea Meets America's Worst Idea'

Point Reyes National Seashore. | Photo: Andrew Mace/Flickr/Creative Commons License

In March, across the board cuts throughout the federal government known as sequestration hit every single national park unit in the system. Now, with Memorial Day weekend signaling summer vacation season, a congressional report looks at the damage.

At issues is what was expected: services cut risk tourism appeal thus affecting jobs and the local economy in surrounding communities. From the Grand Tetons to Great Smokey National Park, campgrounds are closed or will open later in the season. In the Grand Canyon, reduction in visitor center hours is estimated to affect a half million visitors. At Cape Cod National Seashore, some 49,000 people will not be able to do programs like guided walks.

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"Republicans in Congress who forced these painful cuts to our national parks are looking for someone else to blame," said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the ranking minority member of the Natural Resources Committee who commissioned the report, entitled "America's Best Idea Meets America's Worst Idea." "It's time they accept responsibility for their actions and immediately restore funding to our national parks and other vital job-creating programs by ending the sequester," he added.

The report is based on interviews with managers at 23 of the 401 national park units in the country. Two in California were included. (Leading up to sequestration, SoCal Wanderer interviewed leadership at 13 parks about their budget plans.)

Golden Gate National Recreation Area is the second most visited unit in the country and will face a $1.3 million cut from its $26 million budget. That means 11 full time positions will remain vacant in addition to some seasonal jobs, translating to uncleanly bathrooms and a lower key law enforcement presence, both a need for this park surrounded by the dense San Francisco environs (especially considering the party element).

Just north of the city by some 30 miles, Point Reyes National Seashore will take a $374,000 hit from its $7.5 million budget. It's the third most visited national park unit in California -- 35th nationwide -- and attracted about 2.4 million people last year. The doesn't seem that big, but national parks do stretch their dollars wisely. Here it means the closure of one visitor center, reduced days of operation at another, and reduced hours at yet another. And like many other parks, staff reductions mean slower response times to emergencies, less educational programs, and a larger backlog of trail maintenance.

Also featured in the report are a number of units related to the armed forces, like Ninety Six National Historic Site in South Carolina, a site of two Revolutionary War battles. How timely, considering the upcoming holiday weekend.

For the Record: An earlier version of this story included a typo that greatly exaggerated the budget of Point Reyes National Seashore to $93 million. The budget is actually $7.5 million. We regret the error.

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About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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