Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Sequestration cuts affecting national parks

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Albany/HV: Sequestration cuts affecting national parks
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It's National Parks Week, but because of recent sequester budget cuts, some may not be celebrating as much as others. Our Vince Gallagher has more.

STILLWATER, N.Y. -- Gina Johnson, Chief of Visitor Services, said, "There was a five percent across the board decrease, but we found ways to work around it."

Gina Johnson is the Chief of Visitor Services at Saratoga National Historical Park. She says the sequester is forcing them and other national parks to make some changes.

Johnson said, "Wednesdays and Thursdays are slow. We could have as few as ten visitors, so we thought we would cut back on those slow days, but then keep it open on the weekends in the fall where we can get 50, 60, 70 people a day."

Johnson says the Schuyler House will now only be open three days a week and the park's popular tour roads will close this season at 6 p.m.

"We normally close the tour roads at 7 p.m., but it does take our rangers quite a long time to make sure everybody is out of the park and that incurs more overtime,” Johnson said.

This year also marks the 75th anniversary of the Saratoga National Historical Park, but the sequester won't affect that. Funding for the celebration has already been approved.

"We have an internal grant process, so we had applied for internal monies to support these extra special events for our 75th anniversary," Johnson said.

"In 1938, this became part of the National Park Service and we've been federal ever since, so we do have a number of activities this year that will be larger than in past years," said Park Ranger Bill Valosin.

The park has faced budget cuts in the past. A similar situation during World War II, and just fifteen years ago, the park was in danger of shutting down completely. Despite the current setbacks, things are still moving forward.

"This park has done a really job of managing its funds and managing its staff, so we're doing well right now.”

Johnson also says while no permanent jobs will be lost here, they will be increasing their number of volunteers for the busy season. Other national parks haven't had it as well. Some have closed down due to these cuts and many others are on the verge of doing the same.

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