National parks attract fewer visitors than normal - Dallas News |

National parks attract fewer visitors than normal

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Some of the country's irreplaceable treasures are its national parks.

But hiking-path bottlenecks and scenes of packed tour buses are now less common at some historic sites.

Part of the problem is how the parks are financed.

"We have not received adequate appropriations in order to keep even," said Jonathan Jarvis.

Created and funded by Congress, the national parks receive a high level of protection and attention.

But when lawmakers became deadlocked last fall, and Congress forced the first partial government closure in 17 years after failing to pass a budget. That meant the money to keep national parks up and running ran out.

"The public expects these places to be available to them and to be open for all purposes," he said.

Some of the most iconic parks including the Grand Canyon and the State of Liberty are actually opened for business temporarily by relying on local and state budgets once federal dollars froze.

"When a nation has to shut down the national parks because of funds, someone is spending money in the wrong places," said a tourist.

In the end, the government shutdown resulted in nearly $8 million fewer visitors to national parks and cost the parks and surrounding communities an estimated $414 million in lost visitor spending.

Compounding that loss of revenue in 2013 with the already sky-high repair needs that total $11 billion dollars, and it's clear why the national park system is overwhelmed.

"There's nothing more patriotic or symbolic of what America stands for than National Parks," said Jarvis.

Next quarter the national parks will launch a centennial campaign to promote 100 years of existence. They will invite visitors to bring their smart phones and share their stories about visiting the parks on social media. They call the program the "Centennial Campaign: Find your park."

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