Contested Terrain
North Cascades National Park Service Complex: An Administrative History
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Chapter 9:

Several superintendents would guide the park complex through its second phase of management. In 1978, Keith Miller replaced Lowell White in a straight exchange; Miller left his post as superintendent at Acadia National Park for North Cascades, and White left his post at North Cascades for Acadia. After six years, Miller took a position in the Southwest Regional Office, and was replaced by John Reynolds, who left his post as assistant superintendent of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to serve as the park's top manager from 1984 to 1988. In late 1988, Reynolds left North Cascades to be manager of the Denver Service Center, and John Earnst replaced him, having served as superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park. When Earnst retired in 1992, William Paleck became the park complex's most recent superintendent, leaving his position as superintendent of Saguaro National Monument. These managers addressed pressing issues surrounding land policies in Stehekin, the relicensing of hydroelectric projects, and other resource management concerns. They also undertook a new planning effort for the park complex, one which stirred more controversy in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Moreover, they also had to respond to changes within the national park system with the Park Service's recent reorganization. These issues reflected that the park's administration had become more complicated and specialized since the park's creation. And thus to meet the challenges of this new era, the park's administrative framework and management approach would have to adjust accordingly.

One measure of the park complex's growing pains was the increase in park staff. The staff of seven permanent and forty seasonal employees in the summer of 1969 had increased to forty-two permanent and eighty seasonal members by the early 1980s, and was up to seventy-four permanent and ninety-four seasonal employees in the mid-1990s. The increase was a natural progression in adding needed personnel to the young park; it also demonstrated the need for specialized positions to cover the wide array of management concerns, from law enforcement to specific resource management problems. In addition, the staff was composed of other members, such as Volunteers in Parks (VIPs), Student Conservation Association (SCA) workers, members of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), and the Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC). The presence of these volunteers and inexpensive employees, who numbered some one hundred people in 1980, illustrated the Park Service's interest in using an alternative work force to meet all the demands of park management, demands which could not be met by current funding levels and hiring policies. VIPs and other work groups provided a valuable source of labor for a variety of projects; they helped with revegetation at the subalpine passes, provided information and interpretation in front country areas, built and rehabilitated park trails, organized library records, and conducted research on the park's natural and human history. [1]

Another matter related to the park's administrative growth was the search for a permanent home for the park complex's headquarters. While Park Service administrators had selected Sedro Woolley as the location of the park's headquarters in the late 1960s, the selection of a permanent building for the park's head office turned out to be a long and drawn out affair. The first park office, located in the State Street Office Building, was temporary, park officials contended. In a short time, they stated, the park's operations would outgrow this facility. In the meantime they, along with city representatives, began looking for another site. By 1972, they had decided on four possible sites: the city ball park, the junction of Highway 9 and Highway 20, the area west of Highway 20 near the log scaling station, and finally the old Memorial Hospital site. Park Service officials chose the hospital site as the one that would best meet their present and future needs. These were: 1) that it was large enough (two acres) to construct a good-sized building with adequate employee and visitor parking, 2) that it was located in an area in which it would be integrated with the surrounding community, and 3) that it was located on a major city street (the corner of Bell and State streets) away from commercial and industrial sections, and at the edge of a residential area. The selection of the old hospital site would also fulfill one of the main reasons for the park complex's presence in Sedro Woolley. The hospital's closure occurred around the same time as the park's creation and spurred the state's congressional delegation to seek a replacement for this loss to the local economy. Legal and political matters delayed the project for several years, the most notable problems coming from the park's current landlord, the General Services Administration's assessment of the site selection, and problems stemming from city regulations. [2]

One of the most important questions in the selection of a new office was directed at the Park Service's decision to locate the headquarters facility away from Highway 20 -- the main park thoroughfare. At the heart of the matter was the vision park planners and park managers had for the headquarters office. In 1976, Regional Director Russell Dickenson described the move as one that would intentionally eliminate the park's office "as a visitor information facility." The rationale behind this proposal demonstrated again the influence of Highway 20 in park operations. When Highway 20 opened in 1972, public use patterns changed, meaning that most visitors could be found along the highway within the park complex. For this reason, in the summer of 1973 park staffers had begun to operate the temporary information center at Concrete, Washington, as called for in the Park Service-Forest Service joint management plan for the North Cascades. The facility served eastbound travelers as they approached the park complex. The following year, the park moved the information center to a more permanent facility in Concrete, a building constructed to look like a railroad depot complementing a Sedro Woolley group's plans to initiate railroad service between Sedro Woolley and Concrete. Meanwhile, as called for in the joint plan, the Forest Service opened its Early Winters information center around this same time on the east side of the Cascades to meet the needs of westbound travelers. Still another information center for highway travelers was the park's Marblemount Ranger Station, which was also the center for all backcountry operations in the complex. The master plan for North Cascades noted that there would be more visitor information services along the highway in the future; some of these would be a visitor center at Newhalem as well as roadside waysides and pullouts to orient the motorist to the northern Cascades. Taken together, these highway information services made any additional services at the Sedro Woolley headquarters unnecessary and unjustifiable "from a cost/visitor use standpoint," Dickenson concluded. The new headquarters was completed in early 1977, and on March 1 of that year the park moved its headquarters operation into the new facility. [3]

In less than ten years, however, this situation changed again. The park's headquarters staff continued to grow, and as it did, space in the new facility decreased while rent increased. By the mid-1980s, it was time to look for another office. In its search for a new office location, the Park Service, ironically, found itself back on Highway 20. Only this time, members of the park complex's headquarters staff would be sharing a building with the U.S. Forest Service, the Mount Baker National Forest District office. This merger of facilities seemed to be both a practical as well as politically-motivated solution to the current headquarters problem. Since the parkland's inception, cooperation between the Park Service and Forest Service had been a major goal in its management, both as a matter of geography and the political realities underlying the park complex's creation. In 1985, conditions seemed ripe for another attempt at interagency cooperation. That year, Doug McWilliams, the forest supervisor, informed park managers that there would be a significant amount of surplus office space in the district's new administrative building, still under construction. The Forest Service was reducing its staff, and this would leave the agency with more space than it needed. McWilliams suggested that the two agencies combine their operations under one roof in order to save money on rent and office equipment, make more efficient use of conference rooms, and consolidate their public information services. For these reasons and those stemming from its own situation, North Cascades moved into the new headquarters with the Mount Baker District in March 1986. [4]

This new venture, however, seems to have solved the need for an adequate headquarters facility temporarily rather than permanently. A central reason was the continued growth of the park complex's staff. When the park moved to its new headquarters, twenty-four (twenty permanent and four temporary) employees worked in the office. Two years later, that number nearly doubled to forty-one (twenty-three of which were permanent). Looking over the advantages of the joint office, Superintendent John Reynolds noted that the joint information center worked well; the information visitors received was more accurate and current since both agencies were available in the same place and at the same time. Cost-saving measures could be found in sharing the same cooperative association for the sale of publications on the park and forest. Both agencies saved money using the same telephone system and number, and were planning on sharing photocopying services as well as internal mail service. Moreover, the two agencies were sharing knowledge by combining their libraries and they were beginning to understand each other better as well.

There were disadvantages, too. One of these was that rather than creating a greater clarity in the differences between the two agencies in the mind of the general public, sharing office space actually created greater confusion. Another disadvantage was that the building was not designed with joint operation in mind and some of the shared space (lunch room, storage areas) proved to be inconvenient to use. Interestingly, Reynolds concluded that relocating the headquarters back to Highway 20 rendered the office's daily operations less efficient, since more visitors stopped in requesting information from park personnel. (Ironically, the new headquarters area took on added importance as an information center once the park shut down the Concrete information center in the mid-1980s.) [5]

In the late 1980s, the situation had deteriorated to the point where North Cascades managers were requesting an office space requirements study. As Acting Superintendent David Pugh reported in October 1988, the park's headquarters space "does not meet the needs of present park staff in providing adequate working space," as well as storage and warehouse space, separate offices for managers and those in personnel; nor was there "sufficient parking space for Government and private vehicles." Although employees felt the squeeze throughout the year, the lack of office space was "especially acute" during the summer when Park Service and Forest Service seasonals arrived and the numbers of visitors stopping at the information center increased dramatically. Thus, before pursuing any alternatives for leasing other office space or reorganizing the current office, North Cascades wanted "a comprehensive study of office requirements" to determine "how best to meet the short and long term needs of the park for headquarters space," Pugh stated. The agency's woes would only continue in the 1990s. A space study concluded that the Park Service needed more space at a new facility because reconfiguring the office's layout was not an option. Moreover, the agency's joint lease with the Forest Service on the facility expired in 1990s, and in an effort to continue to operate in a somewhat normal capacity, the two agencies signed a lease but one that had a long list of issues that needed to be resolved, including poor lighting and ventilation systems. [6]

The trials over securing an adequate headquarters facility were indicative of a much larger administrative issue for the park -- its growing pains and its adjustments to growth. Superintendent Reynolds indicated what had brought on the recent issue over space at the park's front office. It was not simply an increase in park staff, but an increase that reflected changes in how the park would be managed. One important staff addition was a chief of resource management who worked out of Sedro Woolley, and who would help coordinate a parkwide resource management program. This meant that for the first time the park complex would have a staff member in charge of this program. Similar to trends systemwide, North Cascades would now emphasize the importance of resource management in the overall administration of the park. Other positions had been added to the park roster as well which reflected this new emphasis, such as interns to conduct base line research. The park also employed a landscape architect to assist with development plans for park projects. "All of these positions," Reynolds wrote, had been created "in an attempt to address the backlog of operational needs, and move North Cascades into the future." These positions would help accomplish one of the central goals of the park: to effectively manage the resources, and the trend in adding specialists to the park staff would continue up to the present. [7]

The park's future and resource management were central themes in John Reynolds' tenure and thus the park's administration. Many of these issues would be addressed in the park's new general management plan, which got underway in the mid-1980s. But first, Reynolds thought it important to reconsider how the park was set up as an administrative unit, namely the relationship between the headquarters staff and the complex's two districts. Revising the park's administrative structure would, in the long run, enable the park to adjust to changes in park management, such as with the rise of specialists to oversee park programs. This could not happen effectively with the current system.

When the park complex was established, the Park Service adopted the existing district manager organization. This organization, as noted earlier, separated the park into two administrative units: the Skagit and Stehekin districts. The two districts were run by district managers, who oversaw park operations and park staff for their areas; they answered directly to the superintendent who was stationed at park headquarters. In this set up, three people ran the park, each with his own staff. Naturally, the superintendent made the final decisions, but for the day-to-day operations of the park complex, Lowell White recalled, the district manager concept allowed the park to run itself. Having district managers also seemed to be a practical response to the park complex's rugged geography -- the two main river valleys, the Skagit and Stehekin -- were separated by a constellation of peaks, and thus it was easier to have local managers oversee local affairs on either side. This was especially true in the case of Stehekin, whose remote setting made communication difficult, let alone making management decisions from afar.

But as the park aged, the district manager system seemed incapable of keeping pace with new developments in the parkland's management. Superintendent Keith Miller made a step towards reorganization in 1979 when he changed the Stehekin District manager position into a district ranger. The revision, Miller suggested, reflected a weakness in the district manager concept, for it saddled the manager with numerous responsibilities. One responsibility in particular deserved attention by a full-time manager, and that was maintenance. For this reason, the superintendent transferred all responsibility for maintenance (and the maintenance division) in Stehekin to the maintenance specialist (later changed to facility manager) at headquarters. In doing so, the district ranger would be freed up to supervise the numerous programs which make up park management; some of these were visitor services and protection, concession operations, community relations, interpretation, and cooperation with the Forest Service. Moreover, Miller concluded, this revision would "enable the Superintendent to develop a more cohesive organization between the Stehekin District and Headquarters." [8]

Maintaining good community relations meant a great deal in the overall management of Stehekin and required close contact between the superintendent and his staff, so it made sense to partially reorganize the parkland's administrative system. But more still needed to be done. The evolution of the ranger division illustrates this point. At one time in Park Service history, the ranger was a versatile, "do anything" employee who was the backbone of the agency. The ranger performed a variety of duties ranging from law enforcement to trail construction. Throughout his career, the ranger acquired a variety of skills and experience and was rewarded with advancements in the ranger organization. But that picture began to change in the mid-1960s, as the ranger's stature declined relative to that of various specialists. At one time, the ranger division was in charge of both visitor protection and services as well as resource management. With the arrival of resource management specialists in the 1970s and 1980s, however, parks created resource management divisions and removed the responsibilities for resource management from the ranger corps and transferred them to this new program. Another development which influenced this evolution was the escalation in crime within national parks, all of which demanded the attention of the ranger force, focusing its attention from the backcountry to the front country where the greatest concentration of visitors were and the greatest amount of criminal acts occurred.

By the late 1980s, these were some of the forces which led to change in the administrative structure at North Cascades. Jonathan Jarvis arrived around this time to head the new resource management division. And crime, even in a region as seemingly immune from criminal activity as the North Cascades, was on the rise. All too frequently, park managers confronted incidents of car clouting, rape, and drug manufacturing. Unifying the park's districts under one management system seemed to be the most logical solution. Most parks found it more effective to have a line organization in which a park's various programs were run by program managers at the park's headquarters rather than appoint a program leader in each district. This latter approach was too expensive. It would also further divide the park by reinforcing the impression that these districts were actually two distinct park areas. To be sure, the nature of the park complex's physical and political terrain led to this perception. But the goal of the park's founders had been to treat this area as an interrelated unit, the larger aim of which was wilderness protection.

By 1988, Superintendent Reynolds had accomplished most of his goals for reorganizing the park. The district manager system, he believed, only supported the status quo -- a "caretaker" operation -- and could not guide the park along its path to the future, a future which appeared more and more complicated. He opted for a line organization to help promote a parkwide rather than district-centered vision of management. Only in this way could North Cascades meet the challenges that lay ahead. [9] Overhauling the existing administrative system had not been without some hardship, especially for some members of the park staff who believed that the district manager organization worked well. One long-time employee stated that the current system was "more appropriate for this particular park considering the geographic layout and logistics involved. I believe it makes for a more cohesive and, in the long run, more efficient team organization. It puts the Manager close to and in touch with the operation." [10]

Nevertheless, the majority of the park complex's staff supported the new administrative system, and in 1989, a year after Reynolds left the park, the new organization was mostly completed. Essentially, it retained the two districts but gave the division chiefs at headquarters line authority over the whole park rather than having them serve as the superintendent's advisors and staff. The specialists in the districts now reported to the division chiefs rather than the unit managers. (Evidently, park officials took to heart the special situation in Stehekin and reinstated the district manager position there, even though the entire park operated under a different system.) Among the highlights of the new organization was the creation of a ranger division. With a chief ranger for the first time, the park could address increasing crime, visitor safety and resource protection issues. Other positions were subject-to-furlough, created to assist in interpretation, a result of an operations evaluation and staffing study, all of which were part of the general reorganization. Perhaps most importantly, the new organization established a wilderness district covering the majority of the park complex. Bringing over ninety percent of the parkland under one district was a practical solution to maintaining consistent management of the complex's extensive wilderness. Superintendent Reynolds brought about this change primarily because he wanted the park to have a strong wilderness ethic. Because William Lester was the Skagit backcountry ranger and a leading proponent of a park wilderness ethic, the new district would be run out of Marblemount. With such a large portion of the park set aside in the wilderness district, the Skagit and Stehekin district rangers would have their jurisdiction confined, for the most part, to the recreation areas, mainly the road corridors, reservoirs, and other developed sites in those areas. [11]

The new organization proved to be quite effective, it seems, for only minor reorganizations have taken place since then. In 1993, for instance, Superintendent William Paleck instituted an employee committee system for management. The intent was to create a closer working relationship among the park staff, who were located in remote areas, and to make them more a part of the decision-making process. Thus, the new committee system would help empower employees and give them "more immediate access to management and managing." By 1995, Superintendent Paleck also revised the district manager position at Stehekin, converting the position to a management assistant stationed in Chelan, whose primary duties now were public outreach and coordination. In addition, Paleck consolidated all administrative services in the park complex's two districts under the administrative officer at park headquarters; the administrative function itself had been merged with the Forest Service's administrative services. Now the Chelan management assistant, administrative officer, and chief of resource management reported directly to the superintendent. Finally, Paleck converted the two sub-district ranger positions into separate district rangers positions. [12]

Reorganization was indicative of much larger changes in the park complex's administration. As mentioned above, John Reynolds wanted to guide the parkland into the future, and the way to chart its course was through a new general management plan (which replaced park master plans). The 1970 master plan, while effective, had outlived its usefulness; times had changed. In 1985, Reynolds recounted those changes in a lengthy memo, entitled "North Cascades 20: Direction to the Future." Surveying the 674,000-acre park complex, the superintendent wrote that "These park areas range from the wildest, most isolated peaks and valleys to the proud Stehekin community and one of the Northwest's most scenic highways. The opportunities for protection of mountain ecosystems and what is left from those who came before us provide a base for a wondrous array of visitor enjoyment and inspiration potentials." The park complex and the communities within and near it, however, were at a "critical and important juncture in their history. The initial development phases of their early years are past, and they are moving from adolescence to maturity." With that, Reynolds launched a program to prepare a new general management plan, encompassing the full scope of the park's management, to be in place by the parkland's twentieth birthday. [13]

Even though Reynolds' ideas would be expanded on in the park's management plan, his memo provided a good survey of the park complex's growth after more than fifteen years of management and his reasons for moving forward. Land protection, namely the acquisition of important property in Stehekin and mining claims throughout the park, was mostly complete. Wilderness management, including both visitor use and resource protection, was well established. The North Cascades Highway, after being in use for over ten years, was a popular feature in the park experience. Moreover, the controversial High Ross Dam issue had been settled with the signing of the 1984 international agreement between Canada and the United States. The treaty finally provided a sense of direction for the future management of Ross Lake and the upper Skagit country. With its provision for the environmental endowment fund, the treaty promised at long last funding for recreational improvements as well as environmental enhancement and land acquisition projects on Ross Lake. Nevertheless, a great deal still remained to be done. "Although it may appear today that the park areas are well protected and that visitors are easily and well served," Reynolds asserted, "a look at the future indicates that complacency not only would be naive, it would be irresponsible." [14]

That future could be read in the region's increasing population. In the past fifteen years, each county within close proximity to the park complex had grown from fifteen to more than fifty percent. The counties with the highest margin of increase were the nearby Snohomish and Whatcom counties; the former increased by fifty-seven percent (with a population of 367,000), and the latter by thirty-eight percent (with a population of 114,000). The largest population base in the region, however, still belonged to the more distant King County with more than 1.3 million people. In addition, the "high-tech" corridor was moving north of Seattle, which included the Boeing Company and the Navy in Everett. As had been predicted in the 1970 master plan, the greatest potential impact from future growth was the Puget Sound corridor, along Interstate 5, between Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia. All of these population figures suggested increased pressure on the park and "undoubtedly" created "the single greatest concern for the continued vitality and health of the North Cascades ecosystems in the future." [15]

Population growth posed a serious external threat to the park complex's ecosystems from air pollution and acid precipitation. It also posed internal threats in the form of increased visitation. Already, Reynolds noted, the park areas had a visitation of nearly one million a year. As a recreational draw, the complex could expect even more visitors and more pressures on the parkland's resources, ranging from impacts to the popular yet highly sensitive subalpine passes to pressures in Stehekin for more primary residences and second home construction. In order to address "both the opportunities and possible impacts to park and recreation area resources," the superintendent concluded, park managers must approach the situation in "an organized, thoughtful manner, with resolve to protect our resources, provide for their enjoyment," and to do so "in harmony and cooperation with our neighbors." [16]

Although the general management plan would cover the Park Service's approach to these issues, Reynolds' memo contained some salient points for his vision of the park complex's overall management direction. Foremost in that vision was that the park would have a strong resource management program, with an emphasis on ecosystem management. At the same time, it was important to consider the average visitor's experience. The main focus of their encounter with the North Cascades came by way of the North Cascades Highway; some 800,000 visitors passed over the road through the park complex in the short summer season, and thus the highway would be the focus of new developments. Linked with the "highway experience" was the need to improve the park's interpretative program, all to enhance the visitor's experience, enjoyment, and understanding of the entire North Cascades complex. Gathering information about the parkland's rich cultural heritage -- from the archaeological record to the memories of early residents of the Skagit and Stehekin country -- was an area of management that deserved more attention. Reynolds also believed that the park complex needed to coordinate other plans with its general management plan, plans for such things as land protection and resource management issues in Stehekin. Besides that, it was imperative to coordinate maintenance and improvement programs with sound resource management. Moreover, he believed in a strong commitment to the park's own employees by involving them in the decision-making process as well as using their expertise in management projects. Some of this commitment was demonstrated by his reorganization of the park's administration, but Reynolds also showed it through his efforts to increase base funding for park staff (many of whom were at lower grades compared to other parks of comparable size). In addition, he worked to increase park appropriations to fund the programs he was seeking to improve and initiate.

In still other areas, Reynolds' vision for North Cascades was more expansive. He wanted to enlarge the park by adding the Cascade River drainage, most of Ross Lake except for the hydroelectric sites, and the lower reaches of Bacon Creek. Like the preservationists who fought for the park, the superintendent believed that the Cascade River Valley deserved national park status, especially because the river itself was designated a wild and scenic river and because the Forest Service still planned to log this area. Placing most of Ross Lake NRA in the park proper reflected Reynolds' belief that the area displayed national park values -- impressive scenery and unique natural and cultural resources. It also demonstrated that park managers were ready to reclaim portions of the recreation area reserved for future Seattle City Light hydroelectric projects in the park's legislation. With the recent High Ross settlement and City Light's decision to scrap other projects, the time had come. Finally, Reynolds cast his vision for the park to the north and Canada and the world. He hoped to see an international park created someday, a park that would include the North Cascades complex with Manning Provincial Park (as well as an ecological reserve adjoining the park in the Chilliwack drainage) in British Columbia, Canada. Moreover, the superintendent wanted to see the entire North Cascades ecosystem -- encompassing Canadian and surrounding Forest Service lands -- designated as an international biosphere reserve. [17]

Taken together, Reynolds' proposals thrust North Cascades forward to meet its new challenges, though many of his ideas would remain in the planning stages for some time. Even so, Reynolds had helped to ensure that the park complex would emphasize its primary mission of wilderness preservation, and that, despite all of these changes, that its administration would carry out this mission in a "new steady state."

Reynolds' successors discovered that the path to this new steady state could be filled with obstacles. Superintendent John Earnst inherited the master planning initiated by Reynolds and was faced with the lawsuit filed by the North Cascades Conservation Council against the Park Service in 1989. The lawsuit claimed that the Park Service had failed to comply with National Environmental Policy Act regulations by not adequately assessing the appropriate long-term effects of its projects proposed in its management plans for the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The lawsuit was resolved out of court with a consent decree in 1991, and it was left to Superintendent Paleck to oversee the environmental impact studies and the drafting of the new general management plan and supporting plans for the recreation area. Completed in 1995, the plans marked an important turning point in the Park Service's management of the recreation area. After nearly thirty years of administration, it appeared the agency had a clearer picture of how it would protect this area which had been rife with controversy.

Both Earnst and Paleck would carry forward another important aspect of the complex's administration that was underway during Reynolds' tenure: the relicensing of Seattle City Light's Skagit River Project. The negotiated settlement, which was finally signed in 1996, was a landmark in the history of North Cascades' administration as well as in the history of federally licensed hydroelectric projects. The settlement agreement addressed the presence of the hydroelectric project in Ross Lake National Recreation Area and its mitigation, and helped direct the future management of the recreation area, so long in question because of the uncertain relationship between the Park Service and Seattle City Light. Moreover, the settlement helped spawn park resource management and environmental education programs. At the same time, the settlement's benefits were still undefined, for the administrative costs for carrying out some of the projects in the agreement were more than the park could afford.

One of the more notable events affecting the recent management of North Cascades came from the National Park Service's reorganization beginning in the mid-1990s. In part a response to the Clinton administration's call to streamline government operations and the Park Service's own efforts to reinvent the way it conducted its operations, the reorganization placed greater responsibility for park programs in the hands of national park managers. The reorganization changed the way the Park Service conducted business, from the revision of park regions to the formation of executive committees and park cluster committees to decide on park project priorities and other matters. Superintendent Paleck played an instrumental role in the agency's restructuring. He helped draft the agency's restructuring plan, served on the regional leadership council for the Pacific Northwest, and chaired the Columbia Cascades Cluster Leadership Council and its executive committee. In addition, other park staffers served on various advisory committees. As part of the new organizational effort, the park's administration placed a greater effort on partnerships, such as alliances with the U.S. Forest Service and other federal and state agencies involved in managing the North Cascades. North Cascades also sought other means of funding park projects through the creation of the Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Olympic Fund.

For years, park managers had been trying to build programs, and the effort to seek other sources of funding reflected a desire to find financial support for park operations. Twenty years after the establishment of North Cascades, Superintendent John Reynolds had called attention to the park's "unacceptably low financial base." North Cascades was deficient in both its operating base and capital improvements funds. In a sense, North Cascades was operating at 1968 funding levels which supported basic park operations but little more. Reynolds pointed to disturbing trends in decreasing service to the public, visitor and resource protection, and facilities maintenance. In part, Reynolds pushed for a new general management plan as a way to raise awareness of the park complex's critical resource protection issues. With the completion of the 1988 general management plan, the superintendent was then able to assert that contrary to popular views, North Cascades had several "critical resource issues...with many more developing rapidly due to population increase and other factors in Western Washington." In this way, he argued that the park had only the "minimal staff capability to address these issues" with little money left over to establish any "meaningful and effective inventory and monitoring programs." [18]

Funding from fee legislation made only a slight difference. Ironically, Reynolds suggested, North Cascades was a major national park without "entrance stations, since the main 'park road' is a state highway." The situation may have been politically acceptable and attractive from the standpoint of wilderness preservation, but it placed the park at a disadvantage. North Cascades collected "only user fees, not entrance fees," the superintendent asserted. "As a result, this park does not benefit from the revenue program that is helping other National Parks with similar visitation and operations. Dependency on fees is unrealistic in North Cascades." To resolve the park's funding woes, Reynolds recommended an increase of some $300,000 in its congressional appropriation to establish an inventory and monitoring program, protect cultural resources, provide better wilderness management, enhance interpretation, and expand facilities maintenance activities. His efforts met with some success, for he secured funding from a number of Park Service programs for the protection of natural and cultural resources. The operating fund increase was also justified for the maintenance of the new visitor center. [19]

But conditions within the park continued to change, and the park complex's administration seems to have struggled to keep pace. That is, as the park staff expanded to meet the challenges of resource issues, base funding has been stretched thin. Two increases in the park's operating base have been made since 1992. The increases have made North Cascade's budget comparable to other parks its size, an improvement over the 1980s. Still, as Superintendent William Paleck noted, North Cascades has a $1 million shortfall each year in funding for basic operating needs. Now rather than being poorer than other parks its size, North Cascades was just as poor. The projects associated with the City Light settlement and the new responsibilities associated with reorganization added another dimension to this situation. Park staff had been creative in seeking funding from other sources, such as the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission, and, it seems, would continue to adjust. [20]

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Last Updated: 14-Apr-1999