From the mall in Washington for fireworks to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, visitors have flooded national parks this week. Despite federal budget cuts from sequestration, the National Park Service says attendance is up in 2013. But that doesn’t mean the cuts are going unnoticed.
It’s nearly five o’clock on a muggy Philadelphia night, outside the building that houses the Liberty Bell. A little too late for Daniel Ali and his family — who came down from New York — to get in.
“It is very disappointing and then we pushed the button for the English and that’s not even working,” he says. It’s not the end of the world to Ali…but annoying.
Annoying is what National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis is hoping for.
“We’ve minimized the impact. We didn’t want to pass this pain on to visitors,” he says. The pain is a $150 million budget cut, 5 percent of the park budget.
To close the hole, parks have reduced hours at places like the Liberty Bell, trimmed seasonal staff, and left full-time jobs unfilled, like a wildlife biologist in the Everglades who specializes in pythons.
“We are at war with these large snakes. And they eat anything they can catch. And that has deep concern for us in the long term,” says Jarvis. With prospects for a budget compromise in Washington dim, Jarvis says the current belt-tightening could continue. The park director says it’s depressing.