Road-tripping to a national park makes for an easy -- and spectacular -- summer getaway. While all the U.S. national parks will be open this summer, forced federal spending cuts mean reduced programs and facility access.
The National Park Service has cut 5% from its 2013 budget. The parks will be open and ready for summer visitors, according to Park Service spokesman Mike Litterest, but these changes are likely:
Fewer staff and programs
The Park Service will hire approximately 1,000 fewer seasonal employees to provide programs and staffing during the peak summer season. With fewer park employees, visitors may notice delayed road and park openings, reduced hours of operation, fewer program offerings and longer wait times at entrance stations.
Several parks, especially those that close in the winter, have delayed their reopening due to a lack of crews to clear the roads. Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, for example, opened two weeks late this spring to reduce snow plowing costs, and some secondary roads will reopen only as snow melts. At Acadia National Park in Maine, the winter closure of park facilities was extended by an extra month. Similar delays have happened in Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.
Selected facilities will not open
Portions of a number of parks will not open as a cost saving measure. In Washington state, for example, Mount Rainier National Park will close the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center due to reduced staffing. At Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, six interpretive sites in the park will remain closed, including the Declaration House, where Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. And on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, 14 restrooms along the 444-mile parkway will be closed two days per week, and four will be closed for the entire 2013 season.
Closed selected days
A number of national parks will close for one or more days a week. This includes the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site in Missouri and Ohio's James A. Garfield National Historic Site, which will close on Sundays and Mondays, as well as on all federal holidays. Other examples include the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site in Virginia, which will close on Mondays, and the visitor centers at Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, which will be closed two days a week.
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, the Otter Creek, Roanoke Mountain and Crabtree Falls campgrounds will remain closed through the summer; an additional four picnic areas and three visitor centers will not open this year. Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee is closing three remote campgrounds and two picnic areas this summer. At Grand Teton National Park, several campsites and restroom facilities will not open this year.
Fewer ranger programs
Many national parks are reducing the number and schedule of park ranger programs this summer. At Yosemite National Park in California, all programs at the park's Mariposa Grove are cancelled; the Shark Valley Visitor Center at Florida's Everglades National Park is eliminating 60% of its programs due to staff reductions; and Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia is cutting its offerings by more than half.
Curtailed maintenance operations
Visitors may also be affected by a reduction of routine maintenance. Kentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park will delay hiring a park electrician and seven seasonal guides, resulting in the closure of the most remote sections of the cave. Trails damaged by high water in Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in Hawaii will remain closed due to lack of staff to repair boundary fences and other areas. And at Glacier National Park in Montana, reduced seasonal hiring at the end of the summer will result in less maintenance, mowing, rock removal, patching, striping and shoulder dressing along the Going to the Sun Road and other main park roads.
To find out how your visit might be affected, check the National Park Service website. Adjusted hours, programs and the latest information on changes will be updated for each park throughout the summer.