Summer 2006 U.S. National Park Report: Visitor Safety, Resources, Services Now 'Seriously Compromised' as a Result of Cuts 37-Park Review by Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) Finds

Nearly All Parks Suffer From Reduced Law Enforcement, Emergency Response

Personnel; No Longer Able to 'Hide' Service and Maintenance From Public



    WASHINGTON, June 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Visiting a national park this
 summer? If so, you should expect reduced law enforcement protection, longer
 emergency response times, fewer lifeguards, scaled back water and trail
 safety patrols, dirtier campgrounds and other visibly deteriorating
 facilities and resources, according to a major new report based on a
 37-park review by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR),
 an organization of more than 515 former NPS employees with an accumulated
 15,000 years of national park experience.
     Entitled "Reality Check: What Visitors to America's National Parks Will
 Experience During Summer 2006," the CNPSR report concludes: "Despite 'happy
 talk' assurances from political appointees at the Department of the
 Interior and National Park Service, all is not well this summer in
 America's national parks. A Coalition of National Park Service Retirees
 analysis of the status of 37 national parks ... finds widespread evidence
 of major problems that will be evident this summer -- including decreased
 safety for visitors, longer emergency response times, endangerment of
 protected resources, and dirtier and less well-maintained parks -- and that
 the problems will only grow worse in the coming years."
     Examples in the CNPSR report of the "seriously comprised" protection of
 U.S. national park visitors and resources include the following: Apostle
 Islands NL -- no proactive law enforcement or resource protection
 operations, with safety radio dispatch only available for limited hours per
 day/five days per week; Gettysburg NMP -- ranger patrols cut 25 percent,
 with reduced law enforcement coverage creating a potential threat to
 visitors and historic resources; Denali NP -- cuts in law enforcement and
 emergency response personnel, even though ambulance runs are up 38 percent
 in one year due to new visitation patterns, little or no back country
 patrols being performed; Fort Smith NHS -- park can no longer afford a law
 enforcement ranger, with the superintendent working the front desk in the
 visitor center during the winter to save money for seasonal employees; Glen
 Canyon NRA -- reduced lake boat patrols, backcountry vehicle/San Juan River
 patrols, delays in emergency response times; Indiana Dunes NL -- cannot
 patrol remote areas and rangers are reactive only, with rangers unable to
 mingle with the public or to educate visitors, water safety program has
 been reduced to one beach and only three lifeguards; and Olympic NP --
 longer law enforcement response times to visitor assistance calls, with an
 increased potential for more crimes due to lack of deterrence.
     Bill Wade, the former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and
 chair of the Coalition's Executive Council, said: "The budget crisis in our
 parks is real and it will be felt keenly by park visitors this summer.
 Nearly all surveyed parks will have fewer law enforcement rangers on the
 job this summer to protect park visitors and park resources. Our intention
 here is not to be alarmist, but to ensure that American citizens and
 lawmakers know the facts: Forget about cutting the flesh or any 'fat,' we
 are now cutting deeply into the sinews and bones of our national parks.
 Congressional budget increases of recent years have been welcome, but these
 modest hikes have only succeeded in bringing some parks out of the depths
 of the financial abyss ... and back to its brink. The sad fact is that
 these budget add-ons are the proverbial drop in the bucket of at least $600
 million in operations funding deficits and an enormous maintenance backlog
 of up to $7 billion."
     Bill Supernaugh, the former Superintendent of Badlands National Park
 and a member of the CNPSR Executive Council, said: "It is important to
 understand that there is more to the problems this summer in national parks
 than a higher level of risk posed to visitors and resources. Effectively,
 there is no meaningful preventative maintenance program today in the NPS
 because very few parks now have the resources to carry out such a program.
 Unfortunately, today's preventative maintenance deferral turns into
 tomorrow's increase in the already multi-billion-dollar NPS maintenance
 backlog. Reduced seasonal employee hiring contributes directly to increased
 maintenance backlogs, increased resource crimes, and the increased
 prevalence of the already shameful number of shabby and ill-kept national
 park sites and facilities."
     The total group of 37 national parks covered in the CNPSR report fall
 into two categories: those survey in detailed by the Coalition (17) and
 those where CNPSR reviewed other information (20). The 17 parks surveyed by
 the Coalition were the following (alphabetically): Acadia National Park;
 Apostle Islands National Lakeshore; Biscayne National Park; Blue Ridge
 Parkway; Denali National Park; Fort Smith National Historic Site;
 Gettysburg National Military Park; Glen Canyon National Recreation Area;
 Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore; Independence National Historical Park;
 Lassen Volcanic National Park; Central High School National Historic Site;
 Olympic National Park; Ozark National Scenic Riverways; Rocky Mountain
 National Park; Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River; and Redwoods
 National Park.
     The 20 national parks in relation to which CNPSR reviewed other budget-
 related information were as follows (alphabetically): Antietam National
 Battlefield; Arkansas Post National Memorial; Bryce Canyon National Park;
 Big Bend National Park; Canyonlands National Park; Carl Sandburg Home
 National Historic Site; Ford's Theatre National Historic Site; Fort Sumter
 National Monument; Glacier National Park; Grand Canyon National Park; Grand
 Teton National Park; Harpers Ferry National Historical Park; Hot Springs
 National Park; Lake Mead National Recreation Area; Shenandoah National
 Park; Statue of Liberty National Monument; Valley Forge National Historical
 Park; Yellowstone National Park; Yosemite National Park; and Yukon-Charley
 Rivers National Preserve.
     OTHER KEY FINDINGS
     In addition to the findings about extensive law enforcement and other
 emergency response personnel cuts, the CNPSR report also found:
     * Visitors to parks this summer will see evidence of deteriorating park
       operations resulting from reduced preventative maintenance, in terms of
       scheduled custodial checks, roadside litter pickup, and grounds and
       buildings maintenance.  For example:  Fort Smith NHS -- can not afford
       to pay for utilities to open a building for use by a park partner;
       Gettysburg NMP -- postponing the painting of historic structures, roof
       replacement, cannon carriage repairs; Acadia NP -- less litter patrol,
       tree trimming, road sweeping and no repair of vehicles, also closure of
       trail-side restrooms during winter; Apostle Islands NL -- reduced care
       of buildings and ground maintenance, with only 10 percent of annual
       deferred trail work completed, cuts to core staff making it impossible
       to carry out deferred maintenance; Denali NP -- unable to carry out a
       deferred maintenance program, routine inspections reduced, cleaning and
       flushing of sewer lines cut; Glacier NP -- three campgrounds will no
       longer have potable water or trash service; and Shenandoah NP --
       shuttering of a visitor center and the end to interpretive nature
       programs in a major section of the park, forcing visitors to drive 50
       miles for such services.
 
     * Widespread cuts are putting national parks in an almost purely
       "reactive" posture, falling far short of the law and Congressional
       intent to protect the resources for future generations.  Examples here
       include:  Biscayne NP -- entire protection staff on duty on heavy use
       weekends eliminating resource monitoring patrols for 50 percent of the
       week, also maintenance work limited resulting in documented decrease in
       visitor satisfaction rates; and Upper Delaware SRR -- 50 percent cut in
       maintenance programs, no preventative maintenance on historic bridge, 70
       percent reduction in building maintenance and 90 percent reduction in
       orchard management.
 
     * The national park maintenance backlog has increased -- rather than being
       reduced, as promised.  A prime example:  Gettysburg NMP -- where the
       amount of needed maintenance left undone jumped from $36.4 million in
       2001 to $49.7 million in 2006.
 
     * National park budget shifts are taking place largely at the expense of
       leaving key staff positions unfilled.  For example: Gettysburg NMP --
       down four permanent positions since FY 04 and off 13 since FY 01
       (including exhibit specialists and preservation workers); Olympic NP --
       currently down about 25 positions from three years ago; Yosemite NP --
       where 45 seasonal rangers once gave presentations talks to visitors,
       there now are only eight doing so; Ozark NSR -- 11 positions have been
       lapsed since FY 02 (13 percent of workforce) including three permanent
       positions lost since FY 04, with critical needs covering the full
       operational spectrum, most in maintenance and law enforcement; and
       Indiana Dunes NL -- lost three permanent and seven term custodial
       positions, five of which are critical ranging from bio-technician to law
       enforcement ranger; and Denali NP -- 16 lapsed positions in FY 06, with
       nine deemed critical ranging from Chief of Interpretation to Safety
       Officer.
 
     For full report findings go to http://www.npsretirees.org on the Web.
     The CNPSR report is being released in the wake of the National Park
 Service mounting a major "National Parks: The Place to be for Family Fun in
 2006" promotion campaign that makes no reference to budget-related problems
 in terms of visitor safety, reduced emergency response capabilities,
 service cuts, at-risk natural resources, and crumbling facilities.
     ABOUT THE COALITION
     The more than 515 members of the Coalition of National Park Service
 Retirees are all former employees of the National Park Service (NPS) with a
 combined 15,000 years of stewardship of America's most precious natural and
 cultural resources. In their personal lives, CNPSR members reflect the
 broad spectrum of political affiliations. CNPSR members have served their
 country well, and their credibility and integrity in speaking out on
 national park issues should not go ignored. The Coalition counts among its
 members five former directors or deputy directors of the National Park
 Service; 24 former regional directors or deputy regional directors; 31
 former associate or assistant directors at the national or regional office
 level; 68 former division chiefs at the national or regional office level;
 and 128 former park superintendents or assistant superintendents. For more
 information, visit the CNPSR Web site at http://www.npsretirees.org.
 
 

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

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