Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center
Maryland’s National Parks Underfunded, Under Threat
New Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center Analysis Details Impacts of Budget Cuts to Beloved Parks
Baltimore, MD – As Congress approaches another deadline on the federal budget, a new Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center analysis, entitled Death by a Thousand Cuts, exposes the challenges facing places like the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Antietam Battlefield as a result of mounting funding cuts to the National Park Service.
“At the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the sequester cuts forced Superintendent Alex Romero to implement a hiring freeze across all departments, as well as reduce educational programs and tours,” said Joanna Diamond, Director of Environment Maryland. “We don’t want a death by a thousand cuts for Maryland’s national parks.”
Assateague Island Park, which saw a budget a reduction of $250,000, provides a critical habitat for wildlife like the wild ponies that roam the land’s picturesque beaches and marshlands. The areas that surround Assateague Island Park are densely populated and, as such, the water quality of the bay and ocean water need to be carefully monitored in order to properly preserve the area and protect the local communities and diverse ecosystems who depend on it. Visitors to parks, like Assateague Island Park, enjoy hiking, canoeing, parasailing, or just taking in their beauty.
Parks closures during last fall’s government shutdown capped off the third straight year in which Congress cut funding to the National Park Service operating budget. Additional cuts from the March 2013 sequester make for a 13 percent reduction in funding for our parks in today’s dollars over this period.
Death by a Thousand Cuts gives concrete examples of how Maryland’s parks have been affected by the funding cuts:
- Harper’s Ferry National Park’s budget was reduced by $333,083.
- At the Antietam Battlefield, the superintendent was forced to cut its educational living-history program by half.
- At Assateague Island Seashore, reductions forced the park superintendent to reduce the water monitoring program, as well as implement an across-the-board hiring freeze.
“Let’s give our parks a fresh start in 2014,” added Diamond. “If we continue on this path, our grandchildren could be forced to explore parking lots and fracking wells instead of river valleys and mountaintops.”
Environment Maryland was joined by Ann Jones, Director of Partners for Open Space, for the release of their report.
“While Maryland residents are privileged to have state parks and recreation facilities, our proximity to the nation’s capital and national parks meant that many residents have been unable to visit many of the sites we value so highly,” said Jones.
While the budget deal passed in December may allow for some increase in the parks budget, it is up to Congressional spending committees to decide the actual funding levels this month.
“We urge Maryland lawmakers to continue standing up for places like Assateague Island Park and Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park by ensuring they’re provided the full funding they desperately need during the upcoming budget negotiations,” Joanna Diamond concluded. “Maryland park lovers are counting on it.”
Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces through research, public education, outreach and organizing. For more information, visit www.environmentmarylandcenter.org.