On March 1, various federal government entities will be forced to enact major cuts to help balance the budget. Among the branches facing such sequestration are our national parks, whose cuts could well affect our ability to paddle them. Under cuts unearthed by CNPSR, the following national parks are among those that would be affected:
* Yellowstone National Park will delay spring road opening operations inside the park and to the west, south, east, and northeast entrances. Savings would come from a combination of reduced or delayed seasonal hiring, extended unpaid furloughs for employees, and reduced operating expenses including fuel, equipment and maintenance. Access would be delayed 2-4 weeks, with visitor access to Grant Village and Yellowstone Lake delayed 2-3 weeks. Combined, these delays will affect over 78,000 visitors, reduce park fee revenue by more than $150,000 and have significant economic impacts to concessioners and gateway communities.
* Grand Canyon National Park will delay opening the East and West Rim Drives and reduce hours of operation at the main Grand Canyon Visitor Center. While this might not have much of an effect of paddlers running the river below, it will immediately affect over 250,000 visitors. Grand Canyon receives approximately five million visitors annually.
* Yosemite National Park will delay the opening of the Tioga and Glacier Point roads by as much as four weeks due to limitations on snow removal resulting from reduced staffing which will impact thousands of visitors. In 2011, Yosemite National Park had a near record 4,098,648 visitors.
* Glacier National Park will delay opening the Going-to-the-Sun Road by two weeks, the only road which provides access to the entire park and affecting those looking for the solitude of early season paddling. In previous instances, closures of Going-to-the-Sun Road have resulted in financial distress for surrounding communities and concessions well into millions in lost revenues.
* Grand Teton National Park will close the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, and the Flagg Ranch Visitor Contact Station, for the summer season affecting over 300,000 visitors. This is likely to also affect paddling permitting and access. Additionally, the park’s cooperating association, the Grand Teton Association will lose $225,000 in sales revenue as a result of the closures.
* Great Smoky Mountains National Park will close five campgrounds and picnic areas affecting over 54,000 visitors, including those planning to paddle in the area. The reduction in staff will also result in reduced road maintenance and increased time for emergency response time for the more than 35,000 vehicles per day on several heavily travelled routes in the Cades Cove District as well as the thoroughfares between Gatlinburg, TN and Pigeon Forge, TN and between Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC.
* Cape Cod National Seashore will close the Province Lands Visitor Center for the season due to the inability to staff and maintain it, affecting sea kayak access. Normal operating hours are daily, early May through late October. This closure will affect over 260,000 visitors. Additionally, visitor access to large sections of the Great Beach will be reduced and restricted in order to protect the nesting shorebirds.
* Denali National Park will have seasonal staff shortages resulting in delayed plowing operations of Denali’s spring road, postponing the opening of the Eielson Visitor Center. While this won’t have a direct impact on those paddling in the park – including pack rafters and more – it is estimated to impact over 3,500 visitors per day and would significantly affect revenue for local businesses.