Visitors to national and state parks on Memorial Day may face reduced hours and services. States have budget problems, and national parks have nearly $11 billion in deferred maintenance.
As Memorial Day vacationers head out to national and state parks across the country this weekend, looking for respite from urban woes, many will see signs of parks feeling economic stress.
In California, Governor Jerry Brown's $22 million budget cut will close 70 of the state's 278 state parks including beaches. In Colorado, the legislature has completely eliminated general tax funding for the state parks. And in Georgia, the state park's allocation shrank by 40 percent.
The first changes people are going to see are reduced park hours, fewer rangers available for guidance and maintenance, not to mention closed facilities such as toilets and museum exhibits, says Philip McKnelly, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors.
"You're probably going to see more camp areas using pack-it-in, pack-it-out," he says, meaning there will be no garbage collection inside the parks.
Campgrounds will reduce their open days and there will be less seasonal staff, he says, adding, "With the national health and obesity problem the country is facing, there couldn't be a worse time to pick on one of the cheapest and easiest ways for Americans to get out and relieve their stress and get some exercise."
The closure in California is the first ever in the state's 100- year park history, notes Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation.
Moves to encourage private partnership that would broaden the revenue base for the park system are underway, including a recent bill working its way through the legislature to speed up the paperwork for such deals.
But, she notes, it's unclear how much private money can do. …