A midnight deadline to avert a shutdown passed Monday night (Sept. 30) and the National Park Service was preparing to put a “Closed” sign around America’s national treasures.
As reported by Fox News, Congress missed its deadline to keep the government running, and the National Park Services’ contingency plan states in the event of a shutdown all activities at the parks, except for necessary emergency services, would be immediately suspended and the parks would be closed indefinitely.
Not only would the public be unable to enter the parks, visitors currently camping or staying in a national park would be ordered to leave within two days and all roads leading to the parks would be closed.
Additionally, officials told Fox News the National Park Police in Washington plan to barricade all monuments. In the case of open-air monuments that have no physical barrier, such as the World War II memorial in downtown D.C., the police would have to go to extra effort and expense to create one to keep the public out.
In a statement at the White House press room Monday evening, President Obama cited the shuttering of monuments as one of the effects of the shutdown that will have a palpable impact on Americans.
“Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed,” he said. “And of course the communities and small business that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck.”
The shutdown is also expected to have a huge effect on thousands of National Park Services employees, with staffing cut to the “very minimum” necessary. Over 21,000 employees in parks nationwide would be furloughed.
In a soul-searching, head-scratching journey of its own, the National Parks Service, the agency that manages some of the most awe-inspiring public places, is scrambling to rethink and redefine itself to the growing number of Americans who do not use the parks in the way that previous — mostly white — generations did.
Only about one in five visitors to a national park site is nonwhite, according to a 2011 University of Wyoming report commissioned by the Park Service, and only about 1 in 10 is Hispanic — a particularly lackluster embrace by the nation’s fastest-growing demographic group, the New York Times reported.
One way the service has been fighting to break through is with a program called American Latino Expeditions, which invited Ms. Cain and her three colleagues. Groups like theirs went to three parks and recreation areas this summer — participants competed for the spots, with expenses paid for mostly through corporate donations — part of a multipronged effort to turn the Park Service’s demographic battleship around.
Click here to read the entire story.
Despite cuts imposed by fiscal sequestration, the National Park Service (NPS) is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand recreational activities that will further tax a shrunken corps of park rangers, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
As a result of the sequester, NPS indicates it will leave 900 permanent position vacancies unfilled and cut hiring of seasonal employees needed to respond to spiking visitation in spring and summer by 1,000 slots – significant reductions for an agency with a permanent workforce of approximately 15,000, yuba net.com reported.
At the same time, the agency is spending $400,000 for a study justifying broader personal watercraft (jet-ski) use and another $100,000 for a commercially-sponsored bicycle race. In the case of jet-skis, NPS seeks to undo the effects of a July 2010 federal district court decision striking down special use regulations allowing jet-skis at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found the NPS approvals woefully deficient in addressing negative effects on water and air quality, wildlife, visitor use and safety and in violation of the NPS Organic Act, the Administrative Procedures Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Just days before the sequester took effect, Seashore Superintendent Dan Brown said the jet-ski study would take between 12 and 18 months and cost about $400,000, double the price of a simpler assessment, citing desires by other parks to use the assessment to rationalize opening more park areas to jet-skis.
“The Park Service wants a gold-plated study to document the absurd conclusion that jet-skis will not damage sea grasses, harass marine life or pollute in order to avoid another humiliating judicial reversal,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, arguing that such outlays belie NPS Director Jon Jarvis’ memo saying the sequester will require “difficult choices” throughout the agency. “It is downright irresponsible to open sensitive coastal areas to jet-skis without sufficient rangers to police against motorized abuse.”
The NPS also recently announced that it would spend $100,000 for “listening sessions” on special uses it may permit at Colorado National Monument. It appears the sessions are a means for NPS to reverse its earlier decisions to refuse a commercially-sponsored bicycle race in the park. The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees has protested in a March 14, 2013 letter calling the expenditure both contrary to agency policy and “hard to justify in the face of the budget sequester,” and suggesting the “money should instead go to mission critical operations in the park.”
“With the sequester extended through the fiscal year, we are amazed that the Park Service is exercising so little oversight of its contracting for non-essential and frankly dubious ‘planning’ efforts,” Ruch added, noting that the Park Service has also signed public relations contracts worth several million dollars to promotes its 2016 centennial. “By redirecting these monies, the agency could hire a good number of seasonal rangers who will be otherwise absent from parks this summer. “These expenditures only lend support to those who believe that our parks are more than adequately funded.”
PEER has a pending Freedom of Information Act request to determine the amount and source of funding for the NPS centennial campaign.
Leading national park interests have announced plans for a first-ever America’s Summit on National Parks on Nov. 2-3 in Washington, D.C.
According to a press release, the summit will bring together leaders from traditional national park-focused organizations and those from “additional constituencies vital to keeping America’s national parks relevant and appreciated in the future.”
The National Park Service (NPS) has agreed to play a major role in the session, including presenting its Five-Year Action Plan, which is intended to help the agency prepare for success following its 100th anniversary in 2016.
Co-organizers are the National Parks Conservation Association, National Park Foundation and National Park Hospitality Association. Among the summit topics will be strategies for boosting and improving national park experiences, reversing a decline in annual park visits over more than two decades and new strategies for partnerships and cooperation.
Park friends groups, education and health community entities and tourism organizations will join key NPS staff, federal and state elected officials and park advocates at the two-day session. Participation will be limited to approximately 300 persons and is by invitation only.
For information about becoming an invitee, contact Julia Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 100th anniversary of the National Park Service’s (NPS) creation will be celebrated on Aug. 25, 2016.
NPS Director Jon Jarvis has created a task force to develop a five-year strategy to equip the agency for its next century. Headed by Vic Knox, deputy regional director in Alaska, the task force will prepare a plan scheduled for release on Aug. 25, 2011, according to a news release from the American Recreation Coalition (ARC).
The team has been told to review various NPS “vision” documents like the Second Century Commission report and the America’s Great Outdoors recommendations and, from these, develop an executable plan. The director has instructed the task force to focus on partnerships and existing laws and resources and to incorporate specific, measurable goals.
The team has completed an outline for its plan, identifying five themes with corresponding goals. The themes are:
- Connecting People to Parks
- Telling America’s Story
- Conserving and Restoring America’s National Parks
- Supporting Community-Based Conservation and Recreational Access
- Enhancing Professional Excellence
ARC and other organizations are working closely with NPS on development of the five-year strategy, for example, urging expansion of programs like the Guest Donation Program to a level of $10 million annually, and increases in health-related agency efforts, such as the Park Prescriptions program, in which doctors prescribe active outdoor fun to treat illnesses ranging from obesity to hypertension to diabetes. Groups like the National Park Hospitality Association are urging private funding of needed expansion and renovations of park visitor infrastructure.
ARC serves on a National Park Centennial Steering Committee, along with such organizations as the National Park Foundation and the National Parks Conservation Association, which has developed a proposed campaign to build awareness of parks, boost visitation, volunteerism and service and add new resources through increased park philanthropy by individuals and organizations. The campaign concept is being shared with a variety of partners and allies, with Congressional figures, and with NPS officials.
Other stories from ARC follow.
Great Outdoors Month
Across the country, state governments are showing their support for the Great Outdoors with governor’s proclamations of June as Great Outdoors Month (GOM). We have 20 official proclamations in hand and more are being received every day. To see if your state has submitted its proclamation, visit http://www.funoutdoors.com/taxonomy/view/or/125.
Many national organizations are also showing their support – June will see events hosted by the American Hiking Society, National Wildlife Federation, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, Association of Marina Industries, Coalition for Recreational Trails, National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) and many others. And more and more state organizations are taking an active part in the 2011 Great Outdoors Month. The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (Camp-California), for example, will support ARVC’s GOM efforts by honoring a 20% off coupon at participating California parks. Camp-California is also encouraging its campgrounds to participate in National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day) by hosting a special event such as an open house, scavenger hunt or camping demonstration in honor of the national celebration on June 11. ARVC’s efforts, outlined in last month’s newsletter, encourage Americans to explore camping and other recreational activities in June. Coupons for a 20% discount at participating campgrounds, RV parks and resorts in June are being distributed by state tourism offices across the country. Twenty states, including California, have already signed on to participate in ARVC’s GOM promotion.
Great Outdoors Week
ARC coordinates Great Outdoors Week in Washington, D.C., each year. The celebration will be held from June 11-18 this year. Great Outdoors Week will include the D.C. site of National Get Outdoors Day, important awards presentations, and much more.
Great Outdoors Week At-A-Glance:
- June 11 National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day), 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Kingman Island, Washington, D.C.
- June 13 Ice Cream Social and Beacon Awards, 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., USDA Whitten Building Patio.
- June 14 ED OUT, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Prince William County, Va.
- June 15 Coalition for Recreational Trails Awards, noon to 1:30 p.m., Rayburn House Office Building.
- June 15 Sheldon Coleman Great Outdoors Award Celebration, 5:30 to 7 p.m., TBD.
- June 16 Recreation Exchange with Legends Awards, noon to 2 p.m., U.S. Department of the Interior South Building.
With the exception of GO Day, these events are by invitation only. Details are available from Cathy Ahern at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> or (202) 682-9530.
National Get Outdoors Day
National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day), one of Great Outdoors Month’s key events, is gearing up for a spectacular national showcasing of the Great Outdoors on June 11th. Over 100 sites will participate, featuring partners including the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, AmeriCorps, Girl Scouts of America, Leave No Trace and REI. Signature events will occur at: Kingman Island in Washington, D.C.; Denver City Park in Denver, Colo.; the National Children’s Forest in San Bernardino, Calif.; the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Minn.; Canyon Rim Park in Salt Lake City, Utah; and the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, Wash. For more information, please visit www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org.
Forest Service Planning Rule Meets New Controversy
The Coalition for Recreation in the National Forests (CRNF) is preparing comments on the Forest Service’s draft Planning Rule, which was released on Feb. 14. The draft Planning Rule included welcome references to recreation as a key objective of national forest management, pleasing the more than 100 recreation organizations that had taken part in a year-long public involvement process. The public comment period is scheduled to close on May 16, although a number of organizations have urged an extension of the comment period for several reasons. For one thing, the Forest Service commissioned a scientific review of the draft without public notification, and the review has just been released. In addition, the CRNF has pointed out that new fiscal realities for the agency, arising from concerns over federal deficits, may render some of the plan’s process unachievable, including the heavy focus on monitoring and frequent revisions of plans. CRNF also noted that Congressional interest in the draft rule is strong, but the intense controversy over the federal budget has prevented some of the expected Congressional review from taking place.
The appointment of a scientific review panel surprised many. While most forest interests support a strong consideration of science in future forest plans, CRNF and others have noted that many times science offers conflicting information – on species habitat protection and water management, for example. CRNF has also argued that science must also consider human health and the viability of gateways to forests, and must be weighed against other considerations in crafting forest plans.
CRNF also plans to urge the Forest Service to strike from the draft rule many new terms that raise questions about intent – such as the focus throughout the Planning Rule on “sustainable recreation,” which is undefined in law and raises questions about whether the term will be used to exclude some traditional recreation uses of forests on environmental grounds or favor recreation that generates fees.
For more on CRNF efforts, contact Derrick Crandall at email@example.com.
Mike Ensch of USACE to Speak at May Recreation Exchange
The American Recreation Coalition is delighted to welcome Michael G. Ensch as our special guest for the May 2011 Recreation Exchange. Mike Ensch has been Chief of Operations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Directorate of Civil Works since Nov. 11, 2007. Ensch will discuss the Corps’ new recreation strategy, which links the agency’s recreation efforts both to the overall mission of the Corps and the U.S. Army to protect the nation’s health, safety and security as well as to special efforts to aid active-duty, retired and reserve military and their families. The strategy seeks to continue the agency’s leading role in providing public recreation opportunities in America. Currently, the Corps hosts approximately 370 million recreation visits annually.
Be sure to join us on May 19 from noon to 2 p.m. at Bobby Van’s Grill (1201 New York Avenue, NW) as Ensch discusses, in addition to the recreation strategy, other key developments for the Corps regarding the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and access to public waters.
Call us at (202) 682-9530 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4 p.m. on May 17 to let us know your plans.
Healthy Parks, Healthy People Summit Marks a Key ARC Accomplishment
The National Park Service (NPS) organized the Healthy Parks Healthy People US 2011 summit near San Francisco in April. Some 100 national leaders from conservation, health and nutrition agencies, organizations and corporations gathered to focus on ways to utilize the Great Outdoors as a tool in achieving a healthier America.
Participants in the conference included NPS Director Jon Jarvis. Also present was NPS Deputy Director Peggy O’Dell and NPS Regional Director Chris Lehnertz. Unusual attendees for a parks-focused session were a dozen medical doctors and public health professionals, senior leaders from UnitedHealth and Kaiser Permanente as well as representatives from nonprofits like NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens. Robin Schepper, the director of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, participated actively, along with recreation community leaders ranging from Ruth Coleman of California State Parks, Greg Moore of the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy, and key park concessioners.
The Healthy Parks Healthy People conference grew out of a movement started at the ARC-sponsored Partners Outdoors meeting in 2010. Related discussions played an important role in the White House America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. Support has grown within the healthcare community about opportunities for cost-effective wellness and disease interventions utilizing the Great Outdoors. The recognition of the financial and quality-of-life costs of sedentary lives, and of lowered life expectancy, is achieving real cogency. The meeting ended with a range of planned actions, including a new Healthy Foods for the Parks effort, plans for a major Healthy People Healthy Parks congress in 2013 or 2014, and plans for a range of pilot efforts tying parks and other outdoor places to public health campaigns
To see Jon Jarvis’ remarks at the session, click here http://www.ustream.tv/channel/hphpUS. To see a copy of Food for the Parks, describing efforts to promote healthier foods in a number of parks, click here http://www.funoutdoors.com/files/Food%20for%20Parks.pdf.