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NC Parks "Making Do With Less" for Memorial Day

May 25, 2012

RALEIGH, N. C. – Thousands of people will visit North Carolina's national and state parks over this Memorial Day weekend and through the summer - and this year, they may notice fewer staffers on site for park upkeep, tours, or for fielding questions. Continued cuts to national parks' budgets at the federal level are having an impact on what park sites can offer.

John Garder, budget analyst for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), says the Blue Ridge Parkway is one part of the National Park System that's taken a financial hit.

"The Blue Ridge Parkway is making do with less; they are under-resourced, and it's difficult to provide the level of maintenance and visitor outreach that they would like to have."

Overall, the National Park Service has seen a 10 percent budget decrease for the last two years. The parks face additional cuts if Congress cannot reduce the size of the national budget by next January, based on the mandate passed last year. If that happens, the Park Service budget will be reduced by another 9 percent.

Seventeen million people visit North Carolina's national parks every year, spending more than $700 million and supporting more than 10,000 jobs. The state's parks are a true economic asset, says Garder.

"These are the places that are drawing international visitors – and those who come to national parks stay longer, spend more, and they come back."

North Carolina State Parks have also been affected by state budget cuts. The State Assembly cut 25 percent from the parks budget last year, and raised entry and camping fees in some parks.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC