The government-wide sequester is going to hurt programming at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park this year. Park Superintendent Keven Brandt described the tough cuts he has to administer. He spoke at the annual meeting of the C&O Canal Association (wwwcandocanal.org) on Saturday, March 2, 2013, the day after the sequester officially took effect.
Full disclosure: I am an association member.
The park had to cut $504,000, five percent of its budget for the year, Brand said. All national parks have to implement a hiring freeze and end staff travel and training. So if the sequester remains in place, the park won't hire any summer positions. Typically, the park hires summer help for education and interpretive programs.
Nor can Brandt replace several vacant positions, including the deputy superintendent, who just left to become superintendent of Biscayne National Park in Florida.
If the sequester remains in effect, the canal boat in Georgetown won't run this year. “We have the boat but we don't have the staff,” Brandt explained. Some visitor centers will be shuttered – not clear which. The park is also looking at returning some vehicles and cellphones. The park is also looking at closing some historic buildings to the public to save utility costs.
Visitor centers that don't shutter may reduce hours, Brandt added.
Bathroom cleaning will be reduced to weekly so he advised visitors “before you come to the park, go to the bathroom. Think twice before you wear shorts because we'll mow the grass less often,” exposing people to stinging nettles along many a Chesapeake and Ohio Canal trail.
“To the extent there is good news, we don't need to furlough anybody currently on staff,” Brandt said.
He also warned that the sequester level may become the new norm and that next year's budget may not replace the cuts plaguing the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal park.
Brandt also said it's not clear if some campgrounds along the C&O Canal will open this year.
Brandt warned about the possibility of a sequester a year ago. See story linked to below for details.
The National Park Service estimates that the park got visited more than 4 million times last year, making it th11th most visited national park in 2012.