Thursday, November 12, 2009

National Parks Funding

The national parks are suffering the same type of funding problems facing the American River Parkway, and while realizing that the ideal funding vehicle for both would be to create an endowment which could spin off the amount needed for annual budgets, the capability to raise the amount needed soley from government is not very politically attractive.

With the type of nonprofit structure we have been proposing for the Parkway, the capability of the managing nonprofit could include endowment building at some point, once it has developed credibility within the philanthropic community.

The Parkway is loved to a level that endowment creation is a very real possibility and would potentially solve core budgeting problems in perpetuity, which is certainly something to aspire to.

An excerpt from an article about the national parks.

“The number of park law-enforcement officials has been drastically slashed in an effort to deal with funding shortfalls. The 469-mile-long Blue Ridge Parkway National Park in North Carolina and Virginia, for instance, has had to cut back 40 percent of its staff. It now has only about 35 law-enforcement rangers to deal with 16 million annual visitors to its 300 miles of trails, and the reduced number of rangers has a direct effect on park visitors. Phil Francis, superintendant of the park, says that one of his rangers recently had to decide whether to respond first to a potentially deadly car crash or to a person who was having a heart attack: "Imagine if you have to wait for someone to drive 40 or 50 miles to respond to a medical emergency."

“In 2008, there were a record total of 136,186 reported criminal offenses in national parks, including homicide, rape, assault, kidnapping, and robbery. "At one point, the park ranger job was the most dangerous law-enforcement job," says Denis Galvin, a retired deputy director of the National Park Service. "One reason being is that you're in such remote, hard-to-reach places."

“Park infrastructure is suffering as well—visitor centers, many of which were created under President Eisenhower, are falling apart. The Dinosaur National Park's visitor center in Utah, which won an award for its design in the 1960s, has been closed for more than three years, since July 2006. It was condemned for structural safety hazards because it has gone without any upkeep for close to 50 years.

"The construction budget right now is a joke," Galvin says. "Nine hundred million dollars to cover over 20,000 buildings, some of which are the most historic, and over 6,000 miles of road? The Washington Mall itself needs $200 million for construction maintenance. Independence National Park, where the Liberty Bell is in Philadelphia, needs $10 million just to fix Independence Hall's tower."