By Bay City News Service
An environmental advocacy group is calling on Congress to restore funding to national parks and released a report today showing the impact the cuts have had on the visitor experience in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and other parks in California.
The report titled "Death by a Thousand Cuts" was released Thursday by Environment California, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, and shows that recent budget cuts led to significant downgrades in services, including more closures of visitor centers, reduced trash collection and delayed repairs.
The National Park Service's operating budget has seen a drop of $7.5 million, a 13 percent reduction, over the past three years, with drastic cuts occurring last year via federal sequestration cuts triggered by an impasse in Congress, according to the report.
"The cuts are really interfering with the park service's ability to protect and preserve some of the most beautiful places in California," said Nathan Weaver, a preservation advocate for Environment California.
The sequestration cuts led to a budget reduction of $1.4 million for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in particular, prompting visitor centers to close more days per week for delays in repairs to buildings, roads and trails, according to the report.
The Point Reyes National Seashore was also forced to close one of its visitor centers, close the Point Reyes Lighthouse an additional day per week and reduce evening lighthouse programs.
"Because of all these closures, these all interfere with the visitor experience," Weaver said.
According to the report, California's national parks attracted nearly 36 million visitors in 2012 and brought nearly $1.2 billion in economic benefit the year before.
"The National Park Service is a very smart investment for our economy," Weaver said. "We're calling on the Congressional delegation in the Bay Area to continue fighting to protect these parks."
Congressional spending committees will decide this month on upcoming funding levels for the park service, according to the group.
A National Park Service spokesperson was not immediately available Thursday to comment on the report.
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