Buffalo National River Limits Visitor Services

By: Press Release

March 03, 2013

As Buffalo National River anticipates the beginning of another season of floaters, hikers, and other visitors, things have altered to an extent where many things perhaps taken for granted in the past will be absent or at least altered. The overall condition of the parks facilities, including roads, trails, campgrounds, toilets, and visitor contact stations, can be expected to decline.

All of these things, and more, are taking a hit as a consequence of declining budgets. Even without sequestration, Buffalo National River has seen a steadily diminishing number of staff. At the present time we have 20 vacant positions to which has been added a hiring freeze for all seasonal positions which traditionally are the backbone of spring and summer operations. And, if sequestration is lifted, we do not expect any sort of quick recovery to optimum operational staffing.

Among the changes visitors may expect to see are fewer trash cans. When they get full, people tend to just pile up their trash around them which is quickly scattered by various wildlife. We have also seen a startling increase in the dumping of household trash in or near park receptacles. We are hoping that visitors will get into the habit of taking their trash (and recyclables) home. Visitors may also want to bring their own toilet paper, just to be sure. Routine cleaning and stocking will continue but at a longer interval. In areas where there are multiple restrooms, some may be closed to reduce the number necessary to service.

There is no trail crew this year, the consequences of which will ultimately be deteriorating trails. Because of past efforts, deterioration may not be an issue in the near future, barring a major flood, but over time there will be an increasing number of tree-falls and erosion problems that are left unaddressed. The park, however, is working with various volunteer groups to target specific trail segments for repair work. Similarly, park roads will not receive the level of grading seen in the past. And like trails, this may not be evident for the remainder of 2013, but will be accentuated over time.

Even if the impacts of a 5% across-the-board cut are lifted within a reasonable timeframe, staffing at Buffalo National River will not be restored to fully operational levels and delays in seasonal hiring will not come soon enough to make any positive impact on this year’s major visitation season.

Sadly, our ability to meet our own goals of educational outreach has also been cut. The popular Day By the Buffalo program which is primarily a spring opportunity for 4th and 5th graders was reduced by half in 2012 because of staff reductions. While we are currently taking reservations for this spring, numbers will have to be cut further. And a corollary of this is that our visitor centers will have to be closed to provide any school programs at all.

Ironically, sequestration begins on the 41st anniversary of the creation of Buffalo National River. Visitors should check our website at www.nps.gov/buff/ or call one of our contact stations prior to visiting the park in order to make sure that they are not surprised and disappointed by finding their destination closed. The attached list, from up river to down river provides the current and projected status of visitor access points and facilities.“Limited Service” should be understood to mean that, while toilets will be serviced, they will not be serviced as often as in the past, and perhaps not as often as needed.

“While we regret having to reduce service levels and access to some park facilities,” Superintendent Kevin Cheri stated,“we hope park visitors and stakeholders will realize the need and opportunity for greater stewardship while visiting America’s first National River.”

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