The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 16, 2013

Long lines, closings at parks, landmarks bring sequester home


At Biscayne National Park south of Miami, officials have canceled environmental-education camps through Sept. 30, upending the plans of about 50 students, said Assistant Superintendent Sula Jacobs.

"We're undergoing our busiest season now," Cheryl Chipman, a spokeswoman for Death Valley National Park in California, said in an interview. While visitors won't see many immediate changes, Chipman said that may change if the spending reductions are sustained and vacant positions, including park electrician, aren't filled in coming months, when Death Valley becomes one of the Earth's hottest places.

"If we have problems with air conditioning and facilities at 120 degrees, that's going to be a problem," Chipman said.

Further north in California, at Yosemite National Park, officials are cutting a $28 million base budget by $1.4 million. Options include reducing or cutting ranger-led programs at sites including the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias and Glacier Point, a popular lookout, according to Scott Gediman, a Yosemite spokesman.

"This is going to be phased in," he said in a phone interview. "The park is going to remain open. We're not looking at closing any facilities."

Aside from canceling White House tours, sequestration has spared most of Washington's tourist destinations. The Smithsonian Institution plans to keep the doors open at its 19 museums and galleries, cutting $40 million, or 5 percent of its federal funding. The Smithsonian will delay maintenance, freeze hiring and reduce the use of contractors, according to Linda St. Thomas, a Smithsonian spokeswoman.

Elsewhere in the capital, spending cuts are starting to take a toll. The National Archives, which displays and preserves the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, is reducing evening hours. The National Gallery of Art is weighing occasional closures if sequestration extends into June, Deborah Ziska, a gallery spokeswoman, said in an interview.

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