Buffalo National River Announces Seasonal Reduction in Services
Contact: Caven Clark, Public Information Officer, 870/365-2790
In response to both real and anticipated budget cuts in the National Park Service, Buffalo National River will impose a seasonal reduction of services parkwide. This includes the closure of its developed campgrounds from November 15, 2012 to March 1, 2013. This closure will not affect camping in undeveloped areas such as gravel bars. In most areas rest rooms will be locked and trash cans removed until the closure is lifted. The popular day use area at Lost Valley will remain open during this period.
Declining federal support has resulted in more competition among and within agencies for operations funds. In the last two years alone Buffalo National River's seasonal staff, which are responsible for everything from law enforcement, cleaning rest rooms, to giving evening programs to visitors, has taken significant hits, stretching remaining staffers to the limit. This is exacerbated by the linear nature of the park (approximately 135 river miles) with multiple access points many of which include a minimum of facilities such as restrooms, campsites, and trash cans.
While the bulk of park visitation occurs between Memorial Day and Labor Day, there is no reason why Buffalo National River shouldn't be a twelve-month recreational opportunity. However, running contrary to encouraging visitors to experience the park in the "off" season is the fiscal reality of the decline in staffing and services. Park visitors in any season of the year are encouraged to assume the responsibility of hauling out their own trash and recyclables, but this will become especially acute this winter. Various park volunteer groups assist the park annually with river clean-ups which focus on the trash in the river itself, but this goes a step further by inviting visitors to take on their own garbage to insure that the next visitor will find the park as nice as it was for them.
"The decision to reduce services is a difficult one for the park and, to a certain extent, is being done on an experimental basis" said park Superintendent Kevin Cheri. What this means is that park management will remain flexible and if something isn't working, make appropriate changes consistent with our laws and fiscal reality. But what is certain is that the park cannot continue with business as usual as it faces mandatory reductions in operational costs. Although numbers were down last year due to the combination of heat and drought, Buffalo National River's visitation is averaging 1.5 million per year which is a statement of how important and popular the park is as a resource and refuge for our visitors. A survey in 2010 found that these visitors spent $47,169,000 at Buffalo National River and in communities near the park. That spending supported 671 jobs in the local area. If we want to continue supporting the local economy then we will need your help in preserving the high quality of the river and its surroundings.