Congressional Hearing Examines Health of New England National Parks

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   August 24, 2005
Contact:   Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332


Congressional Hearing Examines Health of New England National Parks

BOSTON - At a congressional field hearing today at Faneuil Hall, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) testified about the critical funding needs of national parks in New England. The hearing, hosted by Government Reform, Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman Mark Souder (R-IN), was the third in a series of congressional hearings to be held over the next two years to examine the funding needs of America’s national parks.

“Our national parks are suffering from decades of inadequate investment by successive congresses and presidential administrations,” said NPCA Board Member and National Council Chair Roger Kennedy in his written testimony. “The ability of the National Park Service to serve as guardian of the nation’s heritage hangs precariously in the balance.”

In its written testimony, NPCA raised concern about the funding needs of Cape Cod National Seashore, Boston National Historical Park, Acadia National Park in Maine, the Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge, and other parks in the northeast.

“Inadequate funding has led to a drastic reduction in the number of law enforcement rangers at Cape Cod,” NPCA’s testimony states. “…The renewal of the Cape Cod lifeguard program should not be an annual waiting game. Nor should the staffing levels at premier destinations such as Cape Cod be reduced to a point where law enforcement rangers are able to protect the parking lots but not the park.”

NPCA also reports that Acadia National Park’s annual budget has not kept pace with the rising costs of operating the park. A 2001 assessment identified a $7.3 million budget deficit.

Last week, NPCA released a new State of the Parks assessment of the health of the Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge, rating the park in “fair” condition with a score of 72 out of 100. An annual shortfall of $400,000 prevents the National Park Service from filling key maintenance and curatorial positions, affecting the condition of the historic site and its many treasures, some of which are stored in attics without proper environmental controls. Insufficient funding has also caused the park to be closed eight months of the year, restricting access for visitors and school groups, and only open five days a week during the summer season.

NPCA called on Congress and the administration today to increase the parks’ annual operations budget and pass the National Park Centennial Act. According to NPCA’s March report, Faded Glory: Top 10 Reasons to Reinvest in America’s National Park Heritage, the national parks are crippled by a $600 million annual funding shortfall and a backlog of maintenance needs estimated by the Congressional Research Service to range between $4.5 and $9.7 billion.

The National Park Service, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Friends of Acadia National Park also gave testimony today.

These congressional hearings are the first focused effort by Congress in decades to examine national park funding needs in-depth, and to identify solutions to meet the challenges. Information gathered during the hearings is being used by Rep. Souder to establish a comprehensive record of the needs of the nation’s parks. Chairman Souder held prior hearings in Gettysburg, Penn., and Washington, D.C.

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