Anne Mitchell Whisnant: Parks on the line

February 26, 2013 

Parks on the line

A National Park Service document details the effects of the impending sequestration for national parks in North Carolina and nationwide. These impacts on resources, visitors and local economies should be especially worrisome to North Carolinians, who have long promoted and supported our national parks.

Our beloved Blue Ridge Parkway could be forced to cut 21 seasonal ranger positions and close 50 percent of its visitor-contact stations – affecting 584,000 visitors. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, too, would reduce seasonal staffing and could close five campgrounds and picnic areas serving 54,000 visitors. Loss of staff at the Smokies would also curtail road maintenance and increase emergency response time.

A $110 million sequestration cut, on top of the budget reductions that parks have already suffered, will damage our parks and economy. In 2010, park visitors supported more than $30 billion in spending and more than a quarter million jobs – incredible impact from an agency whose funding takes less than a 14th of 1 percent of the federal budget. Let’s hope our North Carolina representatives and other leaders in Washington are not penny-wise and pound foolish with our national heritage.

Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Chapel Hill

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