February 27, 2013
More details on impacts of forced spending cut on the seashore
By IRENE NOLAN
Superintendent Darrell Echols today filled in some of the details of
the effects that forced federal spending cuts, also know as
sequestration, will have on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect on Friday, March 1, if
Congress cannot make a deal by then, and the possibilities of a
last-minute agreement now seem remote.
Echols said that the
National Park Service units have been asked to plan for a 5 percent
across the board cut. At the seashore that amounts to $477,000.
“We’ll still be open,” Echols said.
will still be able to go to the beach and buy an ORV permit. They will
still be able to climb the lighthouse and stop by the seashore’s
visitor centers and perhaps still enjoy some interpretative programs.
hours for visitor centers and lighthouse climbing will be reduced, and
the popular interpretative program will be greatly scaled back.
if the cuts happen, you will not be able to stay in the NPS campgrounds
and there will be no lifeguards at the seashore beaches.
said that the bulk of the cuts at the Outer Banks Group will be
achieved by not hiring for permanent positions that are now open.
There are currently about nine in administration, interpretation, and
In addition, the park has cut back on such things as unnecessary travel, staff training, and supplies.
biggest difference for visitors, he said, will be the reduction in
programs and visitor service that are a result of a freeze on hiring
temporary seasonal employees, the folks who during the summer season
lead programs, staff visitor centers, and perform tasks such as trash
collection, mowing, and cleaning bathrooms.
Parks have been
allowed to continue interviewing for seasonal employees, Echols said,
but not make any job offers in certain areas.
The seashore has
the go-ahead to hire seasonals who are needed to manage the park’s ORV
plan. That includes nine employees in the permits offices, four
on the interpretative staff who provide closure information and make
other visitor contacts, and the entire seasonal staff of about 15
biotechs needed in the resource area to monitor nesting birds and
Those folks have been hired and should be starting work about March 8.
seashore has permission to hire half of the seasonal workers needed for
climbing of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – six of the usual complement
“We may not be able to open the lighthouse on April 19,
so the climbing season will be shorter,” he said. Or the hours
could be scaled back and the lighthouse open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
instead of 9 until 5.
The Bodie Island Lighthouse, which has
been renovated and is opening to the public for the first time on April
19, is a slightly different situation, Echols said. Seasonals
will conduct actual tours of the lighthouse rather than just act as
interpreters as they do at Hatteras.
The park needs seven seasonals for a full day of climbing tours and has permission to hire all seven.
However, seasonal employees to staff the visitor centers and the campgrounds have not been approved.
Echols said that if the forced cuts happen, the campgrounds will be closed for the season.
Campgrounds, he said, use seasonal employees for almost everything from mowing grass to cleaning bathrooms, to hauling trash.
said visitor centers may have reduced hours and will certainly have
many fewer visitor programs. The summer interpretative programs
cover such things as history, ecology, the night sky, seine netting in
the sound, snorkeling, and more. A few of those could continue,
he said, but not many.
Lifeguards have also not been
authorized. In past summers, there have been lifeguards daily at
Coquina Beach, Buxton Lighthouse Beach, and the Ocracoke Day Use Area.
said that even if the forced cuts are avoided by Congressional action
at the last minute, the park will still have trouble getting visitors
services up and running on the planned schedule.
employees is much more complicated than making hires in the private
sector, and each hire requires four to eight weeks of reference
checking and background checks.
Also, jobs were posted and
applications received months ago, and some of those prospective
employees have taken other jobs because of the freeze on hiring of
seasonals in the parks.
“An 11th hour deal would be great,”
Echols said. But he added the park was already running at least two
weeks behind where it should be to get seasonal employees in place.
a minimum, he said, averting the cuts at the last minute would mean
opening campgrounds and implementing the regular schedule for
lighthouse climbing at least two weeks later than planned.
last-minute deal a week or two weeks or more down the road will put the
seashore even more behind as more potential seasonal employees take
Any way you look at it, he said, the forced cuts
couldn’t come at a worse time – just as the seashore and other parks
are gearing up for the tourist season.
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