National Parks Gear Up For Season, And Sequester
February 25, 2013

Photo by Peter O'Dowd
The Grand Canyon

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- National park visitors brought in $30.1 billion to parks and their nearby hotels and restaurants in 2011, according to a peer reviewed report released Monday.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis told reporters parks will have to find a way to cut 5 percent if Congress doesn’t reach a budget deal by the end of the week. As parks gear up for the summer, they face shorter seasons, closed campgrounds and hiking trails.

Tourists driving to the Grand Canyon will likely have to wait in longer lines at the entrance and may come to closed doors at the visitors center as the park cuts its hours. Visitors may have trouble driving to Yosemite as park officials cutback on plowing Tioga Road, the route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Jarvis said he’s concerned about the impact to visitor safety as parks may have to furlough rangers. And many parks won’t be hiring a lot of their seasonal summer employees.

"Many of them are returning seasonals that have extraordinary skills in firefighting and search and rescue and river running," Jarvis said. "If we’re not able to hire that seasonal workforce then clearly our capacity to respond to emergencies will be reduced."

Jarvis, who has been a superintendent, said the majority of a park’s budget is fixed, which means items such as trail maintenance, school visits and other discretionary programs will be cut first.