U.S. Budget Cuts Hit Maine's Acadia National Park
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The spending cuts known as sequestration have forced the National Park Service to chop about $150 million from its budget. And that means some national parks are opening behind schedule this year. Among them, one of the nation's most popular parks.
As Jay Field reports, Acadia National Park in Maine will fully open about a month later than usual.
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JAY FIELD, BYLINE: The miles of rugged coastline in Acadia National Park are breathtaking, especially on a day like this when the sun has finally broken through the cloud cover. The water sparkles. I'm standing here at Thunder Hole. This is one of the attractions in Acadia that actually remains open and accessible to the public right now. There's a crevasse in the granite. And the water, as the tide goes in and out, rushes into the crevasse and makes a thunder-like sound and sprays salt water.
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JESSICA FALZONE: It's like an East Coast Grand Canyon.
FIELD: Jessica Falzone, her husband and another couple have pulled off the road to take in Thunder Hole from an overlook above the water. The group drove up from Boston for a visit.
FALZONE: We're a little disappointed that we can't get up to Cadillac. You think they'd open a little bit earlier, so long as the roads are clear and, you know, fine to travel, which they are.
FIELD: Cadillac is Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in the park. In the fall, early morning visitors to its summit can take in the nation's first sunrise. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Nova Scotia and Mount Katahdin, Maine's tallest peak, both more than 100 miles away. The loop road that goes to the top of Cadillac was supposed to be open by now, but the gates, blocking access during the winter, are still in place.
SHERIDAN STEELE: We've had to make some really difficult decisions.
FIELD: Sheridan Steele, Acadia's superintendent, says the park has been forced to cut $400,000 from its budget due to sequestration. The loss of funding would leave the park with tough choices to make under normal circumstances, but the last three years have been anything but normal. Acadia had already had its budget cut by about $1 million before sequestration.
STEELE: That means the easier decisions were made last year and the year before. We're now at a point where we're having to not open facilities as quickly as normal, not having as many employees on as usual and reducing programs and services, really, across the board in the park.
FIELD: The Park Loop Road to Cadillac will remain closed until mid-May. So will Hulls Cove. When it finally opens, Acadia's main visitor center will run on reduced hours. The park will offer 30 fewer ranger-led education programs a week. It's hiring fewer seasonal workers and reducing the hours of those it does bring on, and the park is holding off on filling five permanent jobs. One, says Len Bobinchock, is pretty important. Bobinchock is Acadia's deputy superintendent.
LEN BOBINCHOCK: It's the park's only plumber.
FIELD: Geez. That's not good.
BOBINCHOCK: It's not when you have 33 public restrooms.
FIELD: There is, however, a silver lining to one of the major delays at Acadia.
ART GREIF: Well, I think it's a wonderful thing for cyclists.
FIELD: Art Greif and his wife are riding bikes through the mist on the Park Loop Road. In April and May, Sheridan Steele says cyclists and pedestrians usually have to compete with at least some car and R.V. traffic.
STEELE: Closed roads mean opportunities to bike ride and walk where they ordinarily could not.
FIELD: Good cycling has become the informal, early season marketing campaign for Bar Harbor and other nearby coastal communities, which depend on park visits to draw in tourists. For NPR News, I'm Jay Field.
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