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Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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Sequester to squeeze Fredericksburg–Spotsylvania national park

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Shuttered visitor facilities, shorter hours, vastly reduced programming and bare-bones commemoration of the Civil War sesquicentennial.

That’s what the next six months hold if “the sequester,” in Washington-speak, hits March 1 at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

“The park’s impact on local communities is about $50 million a year, most in the summertime, so if the sequester goes forward, it could have a pretty big economic effect on them,” Superintendent Russ Smith said in a weekend interview.

Nationally, news broke Thursday about how the National Park Service would absorb a 5 percent cut, based on a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Responding to a reporter’s query, Smith sketched how the federal government’s across-the-board spending cuts will affect operations of the service’s second largest military park. Its 8,300 acres encompass four major Civil War battlefields and related sites in four counties—Spotsylvania, Stafford, Orange and Caroline—and the city of Fredericksburg.

“We’ll try to spread closures out during this first period to keep the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center open,” Smith said. “We won’t have extended summer hours or much in the way of programs.”

The park won’t be able to hire seasonal interpreters, “the backbone of our busiest season,” he said. “We depend on them for an awful lot.”

It also won’t be able to fill vacancies, now about 20 percent of its permanent, full-time staff—10 of 48 positions. The park had the same number of employees in 1990, when it was half its present size.

The ripple effects of those two predicaments will force cancellation of the park’s locally popular “History at Sunset” tours and cut special events for the Battle of Chancellorsville’s 150th anniversary to just a few, as compared with the Battle of Fredericksburg’s multi-event sesquicentennial this past December.

“Without summer seasonals, permanents will have to cover one another’s annual leave, and that will contribute to staff shortages,” Smith said.

The park probably will have to close its Chancellorsville Visitor Center in Spotsylvania one day a week and Chatham Manor, its headquarters in Stafford, one day a week, he said.

The Stonewall Jackson Shrine, the plantation building in Caroline where the famed Confederate general died in May 1863, will open only two days during midsummer, compared with the usual seven days per week.

“We will have some closures, and normal things won’t get done,” Smith said. “Visitors will notice that the grass will be growing longer everywhere because we can’t cut it as often.

“We hope the sequester, if it comes, will be short and that we’ll be back to a fairly normal schedule very quickly. We consider ourselves the good guys and want to provide the best possible service to our visitors. It really pains us to have to announce any of these cuts.”

Smith has planned for a 5 percent budget cut.

If the sequester extends beyond September, the fiscal year’s end, hours and programs will be further reduced throughout the service.

ON THE NET:

NPS memo 1: bit.ly/seqNPS1

NPS memo 2: bit.ly/seqNPS2

Park map: bit.ly/FRSPmainMap

Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029

cschemmer@freelancestar.com

 

 

 

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/pastisprologue/2013/02/24/sequester-to-affect-u-s-park-services/

  • rufus12345

    The park closing is purely political.

  • rkthomas13

    And all this plus much more, brought to you, fellow citizens, by the congressmen you elected, Wittman and Cantor.  They are still after Social Security and medicare.  They say we can’t afford it.  I say we can not afford big subsidies to agribusiness and oil companies, their paymasters.

  • grrnmo

    Okay. I’m good with this. When the economy recovers, we can gets things back up to speed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1769273819 Shery Carter Ashley

    or runaway forgeign aid.

  • Joseph_Riviera

     So tell me, how much of a dent, within $500B either way, will the deficit be reduced by halting “big subsidies to agribusiness and oil companies”.

  • jsmithcsa

    I am raising the BS flag.

    The sequester affects 2.3% of the federal budget. It’s conceivable that the NPS is facing a 5% hit, but I’d like to know why it is paying more than twice the percentage of the government as a whole. I’d also like to know who is being hit less than the average — in other words, which government agency is benefitting at the Park service’s expense?

    The 2.3% cut is less that the expected growth for next year. So, again, when the rest of the government is growing as usual (albeit at a slightly slower rate than expected), why is the NPS facing a disproportionate cut?

    If they are facing a 5% cut in budget, why is their hiring authority cut by about 20%?

    The hours they are being cut is also not proportional to the reduction in staffing. I read this article to say that the Jackson Shrine will be open on two days in midsummer, vice the current seven days a week. While it’s hard to put a strict definition on “midsummer”, does this mean that rather than being open 90 days or so, it will only be open 2 days all summer? Or is it merely a misstatement/typo, as I hope? Even if it’s supposed to say two days a week, the hit this perennial Southern favorite is taking is disproportional to the other sites.

    Rather than reduce services, to whom has Mr. Smith reached out for volunteers?  I enjoy the “History at Sunset” tours when I can get to them, but couldn’t they be done by volunteers from the local community instead of paid rangers? I will volunteer, and authorize the FLS to give Mr. Smith my email address so he can contact me. I believe there are others and will help to find them if Mr. Smith asks.

    If the NPS is attempting to stampede the citizens of this area and tourists to berate Congress, I will not support them in that, and they should be ashamed. I believe most of the government chatter about the impact of sequestration to be so much hogwash. That said, we did have governor who closed all of our rest areas when he didn’t get the tax increase he wanted, so I wouldn’t put it above the federal government to punish park visitors disproportionately to get the effect they want, but I want proof one way or the other. 

  • jsmithcsa

    The sequester affects 2.3% of the federal budget. It’s conceivable that the NPS is facing a 5% hit, but I’d like to know why it is paying more than twice the percentage of the government as a whole. I’d also like to know who is being hit less than the average — in other words, which government agency is benefitting at the Park service’s expense?

    The 2.3% cut is less that the expected growth for next year. So, again, when the rest of the government is growing as usual (albeit at a slightly slower rate than expected), why is the NPS facing a disproportionate cut?

    If they are facing a 5% cut in budget, why is their hiring authority cut by about 20%?

    The hours they are being cut is also not proportional to the reduction in staffing. I read this article to say that the Jackson Shrine will be open on two days in midsummer, vice the current seven days a week. While it’s hard to put a strict definition on “midsummer”, does this mean that rather than being open 90 days or so, it will only be open 2 days all summer? Or is it merely a misstatement/typo, as I hope? Even if it’s supposed to say two days a week, the hit this perennial Southern favorite is taking is disproportional to the other sites.

    Rather than reduce services, to whom has Mr. Smith reached out for volunteers?  I enjoy the “History at Sunset” tours when I can get to them, but couldn’t they be done by volunteers from the local community instead of paid rangers? I will volunteer, and authorize the FLS to give Mr. Smith my email address so he can contact me. I believe there are others and will help to find them if Mr. Smith asks.

    If the NPS is attempting to stampede the citizens of this area and tourists to berate Congress, I will not support them in that, and they should be ashamed. I believe most of the government chatter about the impact of sequestration to be so much hogwash. That said, we did have governor who closed all of our rest areas when he didn’t get the tax increase he wanted, so I wouldn’t put it above the federal government to punish park visitors disproportionately to get the effect they want, but I want proof one way or the other. 

  • jsmithcsa

    The House of Representatives has passed two bills to end sequestration. The Senate has not voted on either and the President has said he will veto ANY bill that does jack our taxes up. Blaming two Congressmen who have taken action, and not blaming the obstinates in the other party is unfair.

    That said, I agree on the agribusiness, etc. Money paid to them should be ended immediately.  Also the payoffs to the “green job” thieves who take our money, donate some of it a political party, and go out of business with no sign of the cash. Our federal government should not be sponsoring any business of any kind.

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