NPS Retirees: LBJ National and State Historical Parks Legacy in Jeopardy Less Than One Half Year After Passing of 'Lady Bird' Johnson

Watchdog Group Objects to Undermining of Cooperative Federal-State LBJ

Site on Heels of the Death of America's First Lady Remembered for

Preserving America's Outdoors

Nov 26, 2007, 00:00 ET from Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, Washington, D.C.

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In an unseemly
 development little more than four months after the July 11, 2007 death of
 "Lady Bird" Johnson, the wife of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson,
 the National Park Service (NPS) seems to be intent on undermining the
 United States' commitment to the memory of LBJ and the former First Lady,
 according to the 620-member Coalition of National Park Service Retirees
     In a recent letter to National Park Service Director Mary Bomar, CNPSR
 Executive Council Chair Bill Wade wrote: "The Coalition of National Park
 Service Retirees is deeply concerned over major changes apparently shaping
 up at the Lyndon B. Johnson National and State Historical Parks in Texas.
 They are common knowledge in communities near the park, as set forth in a
 recent PowerPoint presentation by the superintendent."
     As the Johnson administration ended in 1969, the former President and
 First Lady decided to donate the LBJ Ranch -- the Texas White House -- to
 the American people. They worked out the terms with National Park Service
 Director George B. Hartzog. On two conditions they were adamantly
 insistent: first, that the result would not be solely a national park but a
 partnership with the LBJ State Park across the Pedernales River opposite
 the ranch; second, that no fees be charged visitors for visiting the Texas
 White House.
     George Hartzog crafted the plan, and a succession of national and state
 park managers ensured that it worked smoothly and successfully. "This is an
 outrageous betrayal," declared former Director Hartzog, a member of CNPSR.
 He said that he had protested by telephone and letter to the present NPS
 Director Mary Bomar.
     Melody Webb, superintendent of the national park from 1989 to 1992,
 recalled that "the partnership worked smoothly and effectively and met with
 the hearty encouragement of Mrs. Johnson."
     The main feature of the partnership was that visitors would come first
 to the state park, place their cars in the ample parking lot, receive a
 basic orientation about the parks, and board small tour buses driven by
 National Park Service interpreters for a tour of the national park. The
 tour included the Junction School, the reconstructed birthplace of Lyndon
 Johnson, the family cemetery where Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson planned to
 be interred, the Texas White House complex, and the LBJ ranching complex.
     The Texas White House complex included the ranch house itself (where
 after the President's death Mrs. Johnson continued to live), assorted
 Secret Service and communications facilities, the aircraft hanger, and the
 long concrete runway where a smaller Air Force One landed after flying the
 President from the big Air Force One parked at the Bergstrom Air Force Base
 near Austin. The ranching complex consisted of show barns and other
 structures necessary for the cattle operation, together with LBJ's cattle
 herd. The National Park Service would maintain this herd and perpetuate its
 progeny as a display for visitor edification.
     The major changes apparently now contemplated would dissolve the
 partnership, in practical effect, if not formally. The ranch tours and the
 interpreters who drive the buses would be eliminated and the national park
 opened to autos and big tour buses. Without the state park as the point of
 departure for the ranch tours, most visitors would lose incentive to visit
 the state park. Moreover, the National Park Service intends to charge
 entrance and other fees to visitors to the ranch property, sharing none of
 the revenue with the state park.
     In the CNPSR letter to Bomar, Wade also writes: "If carried out, this
 operational plan would continue the partnership only in the guise of
 'cooperation,' thus destroying one of the most successful examples of a
 partnership in the history of the National Park Service-and this when a
 major Service initiative is the promotion of partnerships. It would clutter
 the national park with autos and buses and the expanded parking necessary
 to accommodate them, creating an intrusion on the historic scene severely
 damaging to the integrity of the national park-and this when a major NPS
 initiative is to eliminate autos from national parks. It would also
 unnecessarily duplicate infrastructure that already exists in the state
     Finally, and perhaps most objectionable, the new plan would repudiate
 the explicit wishes of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson that a federal-state
 partnership characterize the parks and that visitors not be charged to
 experience them. It would plainly betray President and Mrs. Johnson as well
 as the Director who put the plan into effect, George Hartzog.
     If what is recounted here is indeed the intent of the National Park
 Service, the Coalition urges that whatever changes may be decided not
 disturb the basic operational pattern of the partnership. The fundamentals
 that have proved so successful for nearly 40 years should remain in place."
     The 620 members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees are
 all former employees of the National Park Service with a combined 18,000
 years of stewardship of America' most precious natural and cultural
 resources. In their personal lives, CNPSR members reflect the broad
 spectrum of political affiliations. CNPSR members now strive to apply their
 credibility and integrity as they speak out for national park solutions
 that uphold law and apply sound science. The Coalition counts among its
 members: former national park directors and deputy directors, regional
 directors, superintendents, rangers and other career professionals who
 devoted an average of nearly 30 years each to protecting and interpreting
 America's national parks on behalf of the public. For more information,
 visit the CNPSR Web site at

SOURCE Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, Washington, D.C.