National park projects struggle amid budget woes
Written byJULIET EILPERIN, Washington Post/Greenwire
At national parks around the country, the signs of budget strains have begun to surface. Park managers have spent more than a decade putting off maintenance and construction projects as well as absorbing a 6 percent budget cut in the past two years.
At Chatham Manor in Fredericksburg, Va., the lack of upkeep has translated to overgrown gardens and a greenhouse that has broken windows and rotting wood frames. The Blue Ridge Parkway has a $385 million backlog of projects. And New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument for the past three years has been unable to hire specialists to protect its archaeological ruins and resources due to lack of funding.
Yet, attendance at the national parks has remained mostly steady. This year, the number of visits through July is actually up 1.5 percent from last year.
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said his employees are trying to devise ways to cope with rising costs. For years, the agency has supported day-to-day operations by taking money from its maintenance and land-acquisition budgets.
"But we're kind of running out of ideas at some point here," Jarvis said. "The challenge is, we're robbing Peter to pay Paul."
The Obama administration's fiscal 2013 budget cuts 218 full-time jobs or 763 seasonal employees from the agency next year. Park managers worry about both the proposed budget as well as a potential 8 percent across-the-board cut if a budget deal is not reached by January.