Reduced Theodore Roosevelt National Park services? Popular ND attraction could take hard sequester hitWith the deadline for $85 million in automatic federal budget cuts looming, employees at Theodore Roosevelt National Park are paying particularly close attention.
By: Bryan Horwath, The Dickinson Press
With the deadline for $85 million in automatic federal budget cuts looming, employees at Theodore Roosevelt National Park are paying particularly close attention.
The park — one of the most popular tourist destinations in western North Dakota — could be hit particularly hard if lawmakers don’t reach a deal and Friday’s sequestration deadline passes.
“We’re still hoping that there will be a last minute resolution in Washington,” TRNP spokesperson Eileen Andes said Wednesday. “If the sequester goes through, visitors can expect to see reduced services in the park.”
Although she declined to put a figure on the funding the park stands to lose out on if no deal is reached, Andes said service hours in visitor centers and seasonal staff would likely be cut.
“There would be a definite reduction in the number of interpretive programs we could offer,” Andes said. “Until we get exact directions from Washington, I can’t say for sure what the changes would be, but we’re expecting to cut the number of seasonal (employees) we’ll hire this year.”
Andes said seasonal employees perform a myriad of duties, including facilitating educational and family programs in park campgrounds, leading guided walks, patrol of backcountry trails, patrol of park roadways and cleaning restrooms. TRNP usually hires close to 30 seasonal workers for the busier warmer-weather months and could see that number cut in half, Andes said.
In a release sent out this week, TRNP boasted of attracting 563,407 visitors to the park in 2011. More than $28 million was spent by visitors that year, supporting 451 jobs in the area, according to the release.
“We attract visitors from across the U.S. and around the world who come here to experience the park and then spend time and money enjoying the services provided by our neighboring communities,” said TRNP Superintendent Valerie Naylor. “The National Park Service is proud and delighted that the visitors we welcome generate significant contributions to the local, state and national economy.”
A number of other local organizations that also enjoy federal funding sources also have an eye on sequestration’s fate, although most seem to be in a holding pattern until something is official.
“Because we have not received any specific correspondence from the feds on how (sequestration) will affect us, we’re just waiting right now,” said Community Action Partnership executive director Erv Bren. “It appears there will be some funding cuts coming down. At this point, we just don’t know.”
A nonprofit agency that supports a number of community service programs, Friday’s possible budget cuts could affect Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Bren said the two early childhood programs are currently funded for a combined 224 kids in Dickinson.
“All of our programs have the potential to be affected,” Bren said. “Everything that I’ve heard up to now has pointed to sequestration taking place. We’re just waiting to hear right now. We’re going to continue to serve the clients in the same manner until further notice.”
Southwest District Health Unit Executive Officer Sherry Adams said certain programs her organization provides that rely on federal grants could see cuts.
“Our Women, Infants and Children program is one that could see less funding,” Adams said. “At this point of the game, I don’t foresee us decreasing services locally, but if the federal level decreases their guidelines, then that could trickle down to us locally. Right now, I think we can adjust enough so that we won’t see any major changes in our region. I don’t think (sequestration) will be a huge impact, but it will be an impact.”
In other areas, officials with Stark County, the Dickinson National Guard Armory and Dickinson Police Department said Wednesday that little or no impact was expected to be felt by the possible federal cuts. The cuts would be carryover from the planned drop in federal funding that had been scheduled for Jan. 1 before the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 pushed the spending reduction deadline back to March 1.