National Parks – by the people and FOR the people
Even though I’m not currently living “next door” to Acadia National Park, it is never far from my thoughts. Those of you from the good ‘ole USA are no doubt familiar with the newly implemented “sequester”, the automatic across the board budget cuts affecting all federal funding, including funding for national parks. This post is not intended to be a political discourse, but merely to highlight the impact these cuts are having on our national parks and the communities that surround them.
In the case of Acadia, the cuts mean (among other things) a one month delay in opening the 27 mile Park Loop Road that takes visitors on a drive through the central part of the park as well as to the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
NOTE: The photographs in this post depict scenes that you will not be able to see due to the delay of the park road opening.
ABOVE: View from the summit of Cadillac Mountain
In addition, Visitor Center hours will be cut, fewer restrooms will be open, fewer seasonal positions will be filled, and ranger lead educational programs will be cut by 50%. I find this last item especially disturbing as I believe that if people are not educated about the importance of the eco-systems our parks represent they will be less inclined to feel passionate about protecting them. And of course there is a trickle down effect to the communities that surround the park and are supported by tourism.
ABOVE: Otter Point at Sunset
The configuration of Acadia is such that many areas of the park are accessible throughout the year with a good map, a little ingenuity, and some pedal power or legwork. But unfortunately, the majority of visitors to the park simply drive the loop road, staying in their cars, stopping at the “highlights” and then driving on to the next place, so the delay of opening the road for the spring will deter some visitors.
ABOVE: Fall in the Great Meadow
Acadia is not alone in this dilemma, every single national park and monument are facing the same challenge. It is not a challenge that is likely to go away. And I am not here to debate the wisdom of these cuts or what else should be cut instead of park funding. I am here merely to highlight the problem and to remind you that if you care about these national treasures, you may need to get more involved. This can be in the form of a donation to your favorite “Friends” organization, as it is likely these groups will need to shift their focus in how the dollars they raise are used to support our park systems. Your support can be in the form of time, as volunteers will need to step in and do jobs that were previously held by seasonal workers. Your support can be in the form of writing your senators and congressional representatives and letting them know your opinion, and how you and friends and family are impacted by these cuts. Hopefully, your support will be all of the above.
ABOVE: Jordan Stream Bridge
Without our involvement, I truly believe that our national parks as we know them today are in danger of vanishing forever. Will it happen in what remains of my lifetime? Probably not, but that is not the point of national parks. It is not just about them being here for you and I. They were created to be there for generation after generation, owned by the people and for the people.
ABOVE: Spring Thaw at Bubble Pond