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Spring has come early to the Yosemite Valley, and the melting snow makes for a spectacular rush of water off the granite face of Yosemite Falls, the tallest in North America.
Early March is when park officials would normally be gearing up for the busy tourist season. Instead, they’re figuring out how to cut $1.5 million from their budget. Without a budget deal, the sequestration has forced the Park Service to cut a total of $134 million from sites around the country.
“Do we close a visitor center for the entire season, or do we just cut back hours?” says Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. “Do we trim ranger-led programs so there’s less programs here in Yosemite Valley, or do we keep the same amount and either have less or none at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias?”
All of these unanswered questions are weighing heavily on the minds of park managers, Gediman says. On a peak summer day, some 2,500 hikers pass through this forest just beneath the park’s famed Half Dome.
The park has backcountry rangers who patrol the area, provide safety messages, orientation and check for fire rings that are improperly built, among other things, Gediman says, but the park is planning to cut almost all of its backcountry rangers.
They’ll also hire fewer seasonal rangers and support staff. That means fewer people patrolling the trails and longer response times if there’s an emergency.
“Right now, we’re in a pattern where Yosemite National Park, like all national parks, we’re having to make some real difficult decisions,” he says.
Indeed, it’s not just Yosemite feeling the squeeze. Picnic areas and campgrounds are expected to close in the Great Smoky Mountains; the visitor center at Cape Cod National Seashore probably won’t open this summer, either.
Out West, at Glacier and Yellowstone, the Herculean task of snow plowing the scenic highways that crisscross the mountains could be delayed by almost a month.
“Visitors will still be able to enjoy national parks, they just won’t have the same experience,” says Joan Anzelmo, who spent much of her career at Yellowstone before joining the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.
Anzelmo is also worried that delayed openings and cuts to park services will hurt the tourist-dependent towns outside the parks.
“I think as an American, it just makes you crazy that every few months, our government, the Congress, is taking us through these budget exercises that sometimes turn out to be games,” Anzelmo says.
In the Yosemite Valley, a lot of visitors are saying the same thing.
“I think it’s ridiculous; I think it’s a joke,” said park visitor Emelia Davern of New York, as she prepared for the long climb up the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail.
“Everyone’s so headstrong right now, and it’s so divided, but I think they don’t see the impact that it actually has,” she says.
Nearby, along the Merced River, Christine Nichols said she understands that the poor economy calls for belt-tightening. But she’s not sure parks like this can afford to cut back anymore.
“Being in an environment like this, if you keep cutting back, eventually that directly impacts how safely people are going to be in nature,” Nichols says. “It’s not like you can just cut back and be more efficient when you’re trying to cover a huge wild area.”
And it’s a huge wild area that sees on average 4 million visitors a year. But park officials are used to budget cuts, and they plan to lean on extra volunteers and more money from private groups to help them get through the summer.
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
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KRCC presents JOHN PRINE
Saturday, May 4th – Pikes Peak Center
Reserved seating on sale now at all Ticketswest locations, or on line at www.ticketswest.com
2013 MEADOWGRASS MUSIC FESTIVAL – featuring Blitzen Trapper, Kristen Hersh, Anais Mitchell, Chauncy Crandall & the Rocket Flies, Sera Cahoone, and many many many many more!
Three days and nights of music at beautiful La Foret in Black Forest – Memorial Day Weekend, May 24th, 25th, and 26th.
Full festival details through www.meadowgrassmusicfestival.org
KRCC Member discount tickets available only at the KRCC Studios – 912 N. Weber Street, Colorado Springs, or by calling 719-473-4801 or 1-800-748-2727.
7th Annual Blues Under The Bridge – July 20th, 2013
WATERMELON SLIM & THE WORKERS, JOHN HAMMOND, BLUES CARAVAN W/ JOANNE SHAW TAYLOR, THE SLIDE BROTHERS, D.B. REILLY, and THE JUST US LEAGUE
www.BluesUnderTheBridge.com for festival information
KRCC Member tickets on sale for $25. General Public tickets on sale for $35. VIP tickets $91.50. Day of show tickets $40 at the west gate. Tickets available through www.TicketFly.com or at KRCC.
Pre-festival Party Friday July 19th from 5-8pm at the Wyndham Grand Mining Exchange with Watermelon Slim, and Big Jim Adams!
Pikes Peak Center, Saturday October 12th, 2013 8pm
KRCC member pre-show meet and greet opportunity 6:30-7:30pm – pre-show meet and greet tickets available for $40 to members ONLY at the station.
Advance KRCC member tickets on sale now through August 2nd through www.TicketsWest.com. Enter member promo code and click find.
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