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Contact: Kathleen Sandt, 570 426-2428
BUSHKILL, PA: Although the majority of the park will be open this season, Superintendent John J. Donahue announced today that sequestration-related budget cuts will result in reduced services and facility closures at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Effective March 1, 2013, the park was required by "sequestration" to reduce its annual budget by five percent.The park must absorb that cut in the remaining seven months of this fiscal year that ends September 30.The federal law imposing sequestration requires every unit of the national park system to take this cut.
"These cuts to the park's operating budget will definitely hamper our ability to carry out the National Park Service mission to preserve and protect our natural, cultural and recreational resources for future generations and to make them available for public enjoyment, without impairment," said Donahue.Moreover, they come at a time when the park is gearing up for the busy summer and fall months.For Delaware Water Gap, this amounts to a $473,224 reduction from a 2013 continuing resolution budget of $9,464,480 bringing the total park budget to $8,990,856 for this year.The last time the park budget fell below $9 million was 2007.Since then, the price of a gallon of gasoline has increased by approximately 23%; the price of a kilowatt hour of electricity has increased by almost 8%; and a barrel of domestic crude oil has increased in price by more than 30%.Although employee salaries have also increased by 6% between 2007 and 2010, they have been frozen for the past three years.Visitation during this period averages 5.1 million annually, with slight drops recorded in 2011 and 2012.Since 2009, when the park's budget hit a high of $10.1 million, funding has steadily decreased by a total of 5.5 %.Sequestration-related cuts of an additional 5% have been applied to an already shrinking budget bringing the total reduction in funding since 2009 to more than 10%.
The park willmeet the requirements of sequestration by closing 2 sites, scaling back hours and services at others, not filling vacant permanent positions,eliminatingseasonal positions, reducing supplies and materials purchases, and cutting travel, training and overtime.
Donahue explained that the park will save approximately $250,000 by hiring 17 fewer seasonal employees this year.Seasonal employees are the backbone of the park during the busy season when visitation numbers swell with the summer heatTheseemployees typically perform maintenance duties at visitor use sites throughout the park, operate the park's visitor centers, provide interpretive programs, serve as lifeguards, and perform resource management and law enforcement tasks.
Ten seasonal Park Ranger, Park Guide and Visitor Use Assistant positions will be eliminated in the Interpretation, Education and Partnerships division at the park.These employees typically staff three visitor centers, park headquarters, and Millbrook Village throughout the summer and fall and provide the walks, talks, tours, information and education programs that the public tends to expect when visiting a national park.Many of the programs and services provided by these employees will be eliminated or reduced. The highly popular Dingmans Falls Visitor Center will be open Friday through Sunday, from May 24 to October 27 rather than 7 days a week as originally planned.The division will hire 5 seasonal employees this year on a part-time, rather than full-time basis.
The elimination of 7 seasonal maintenance positions will result in decreased grounds and roadside mowing, reduced trash collection and custodial services, and facility closures.Trashcans will no longer be provided at Buttermilk Falls, Cadoo Access, and Flatbrookville in NJ and at George W. Childs Recreation Site in PA.Visitors to those sites will be required to take their trash with them when they leave.
Even volunteers, who receive no salary for contributing their time and expertise, will be affected.The park boasts a corps of more than 500 Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP's) who help the park every day by performing trail maintenance, water safety patrols, bicycle patrols, administrative functions, historical interpretation, resource monitoring, and other tasks.Supervision and management of those volunteers and programs by permanent and seasonal staff will be curtailed due to staffing shortages and reductions in supply budgets resulting in a decrease in the number of volunteers the park can accommodate and in the hours these dedicated individuals contribute each year.
"We just won't have the staff and supplies we need to operate all of the hundreds of facilities in this 70,000-acre national park, while providing for the protection of our resources and the safety of our visitors," said Donahue."Our existing permanent staff has been doing more with less for years and I am proud of each and every one of them for their dedication to the park and to the Service.But there is only so much they can do under these circumstances."Superintendent Donahue explained that while furloughs for permanent employees were still a possibility, he does not expect that to happen at his park.There are currently 3 vacant permanent positions that cannot be filled at this time leaving essential tasks to other employees to complete, or in some cases, leading to the elimination of that function.The park will save approximately $92,000 this year by not filling those positions. Five more vacant permanent positions have been budgeted, but may not be able to be filled due to the Department of Interior's hiring freeze.Ninety five percent of the park's budget pays for salaries and fixed costs such as utilities and fuel.
Despite the situation, Superintendent Donahue and his staff are moving ahead with revised plans to open as many sites as possible while maintaining National Park Service standards of service and protecting park visitors and resources."As always, we will do the best work we can on behalf of the American people.While we take the necessary steps to comply with sequestration, most of the park remains open, welcoming visitors and continuing to protect the resources entrusted to our care."
Some popular sites that will be open this spring include Smithfield and Turtle Beaches, George W. Childs Recreation Site, Millbrook Village, and Van Campens Glen hiking trail.Milford Beach, including the beach, picnic area, boat launch, canoe access, parking lot, and the trailhead for the McDade Recreational Trail and Kittatinny Point Visitor Center and grounds, including the picnic area, canoe access, restrooms, and parking lot will be closed due to sequestration-related budget cuts.In addition to savings realized from reductions in staffing levels, these closures will save an additional $52,000 in supplies, materials and services including cleaning supplies, trash bags, toilet paper and trash removal services.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 395 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.