National Parks May Face Budget Cuts

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National parks across the country are facing cutbacks under automatic budget reductions set to take effect Friday.

If Congress doesn’t reach an agreement, the National Park Service will have to take a mandatory reduction of five percent in the 2013 budget totaling about $134 million nationwide.

In 2012, the Arkansas national parks hosted 2.8 million visitors and brought in $151 million to the state economy, according to Michael Groomer, Chief of Interpretation and Resource Management at the Fort Smith National Historic Site.

Local Tea Party leader Bob Newbold said he supports the national parks, but cuts to government spending must start somewhere.

“When you’re talking about a trillion dollars overspending every year, this is just a little thing,” said Newbold.

The Fort Smith National Historic Site is set to lose $53,000 from its annual budget so Groomer says “five percent is huge.” The site had 87,000 visitors last year.

“Because there are so many other great attractions close to the park, they’re not just coming here,” said Groomer. “They’re visiting the Museum of History and the local restaurants. They really bring a lot to the city of Fort Smith.”

Nationally, 250,000 people volunteer more than six million hours at the national parks each year. Groomer said the budget cut will result in fewer volunteer opportunities because the parks won’t have the manpower to train or manage the volunteers.