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Report: Budget Cuts Deep Into Blue Ridge Parkway

Photo: $784,000 was cut from the Blue Ridge Parkway during sequestration. Courtesy: Environment NC
Photo: $784,000 was cut from the Blue Ridge Parkway during sequestration. Courtesy: Environment NC
January 13, 2014

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Sequestration and other state and federal cuts in recent years are eating away at the Blue Ridge Parkway and other components of the National Park System, according to a report released this month by the Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center. Now, as Congress deliberates on the federal budget, leaders including Phil Francis, just-retired superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, are speaking up on the importance of replacing the funding lost in recent years.

"We've lost capacity to serve the public and to protect our resources and maintain them in a way that I think is satisfactory."

The report, titled "Death by a Thousand Cuts," found that $784,000 dollars was cut from the Blue Ridge Parkway budget since the sequester was put in place early last year, ranger-led education programs have been canceled and the Crabtree Falls recreational area has been closed for the summer.

Francis said that as many as 400,000 visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway may feel the effects of sequestration. He declared that caring for designated parks is something the country signed up for in their creation.

"It is frustrating because these national parks are truly special or they would not be in the National Park System," he said. "We have a responsibility, once we create a national park, to take care of it."

The parkway draws more than 14 million visitors each year, generating upwards of $300 million dollars for the local economy. Other North Carolina national parks mentioned in the report include Cape Lookout National Seashore and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A link to the full report is at EnvironmentNorthCarolina.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC