Thursday, October 17, 2013
Parks Re-Open, Now What?
The National Parks are open! Hooray! I felt terrible for the families and people taking vacations just to visit parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon but were turned away because of the recent budget fiasco in Washington which led to all the national parks being closed.
As of this blog post, Congress has passed temporary measures to fund the government and thus re-opening the parks over the next few days. While I am glad the entrances are open there is still much to be concerned about.
Parks Are Still Grossly Underfunded:
The Parks are in trouble, they do not have the money to fix amenities, trails and services for the millions of visitors that travel to the Parks each year. As of June of this year, the Parks needed $11.5 Billion (with a B) to fix everything they have been putting off: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/even-memorial-defacement-natl-park-service-was-115b-short-maintenance
This is on top of the recent cutbacks to Parks due to the sequester and the decades long campaign to bleed the Parks of money (a 15% reduction over the last ten years). The recent sequester, while arguably a good thing for reducing the defense budget in the first time in forever, was bad on the social services side as it reduced the Parks budget again which simply means many seasonal (but still needed) positions will not be filled and there will be many more gaps in the Parks. http://www.npca.org/assets/pdf/NPCA_sequester_fact_sheet.pdf
The fact is, Parks have visitors and are economic engines for their surrounding communities. If you do not do these fixes and reduce services and personnel (as several have advocated), aside from the "reducing enjoyment of nature" argument, you are really reducing money for towns and services, making a really negative economic impact on communities. Here in SoCal, visitors to the Santa Monica Mountains spent $26m in the surrounding communities and the numbers are similar or even better elsewhere in the country. http://www.toacorn.com/news/2013-03-28/Community/Report_NPS_generated_26_million_for_surrounding_ar.html
Fund the parks and they in turn will fund America (in addition to funding America's soul [see Muir, John]).
States have enough to worry about with their own parks (here in California we couldn't afford to take over the parks like Utah or Colorado) and the answer isn't "The Grand Canyon Sponsored by Coco Cola". The Parks are an investment by us, for us and we should ask Congress to act appropriately (if they act on anything anymore).
If you want to help parks, please give to organizations like the NPCA: http://www.npca.org
Posted by Peter Flanigan at 9:31 AM