The National Park Service (NPS) has an extraordinary opportunity to makechanges to how maintenance and visitor services are funded by adopting contemporary financial strategies that would ensure national parks remain relevant, accessible and sustainable long into the future. January 2017 will bring a new Administration and Congress changes – offering a perfect time to consider recommendations from three long-time park advocates and partners.
Terry Anderson, Senior Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, Tom Secunda, former Chairman of the National Parks Conservation Association, and Margaret Walls, Vice President at Resources for the Future – have each called forchanges in NPS' operations as the agency moves into its second century in separate prominent articles appearing in recent weeks.
Mr. Anderson called for fees that would allow NPS to meet much of its operational costs in a prominent op ed appearing in the Wall Street Journal
on the eve of the agency's 100th
anniversary. He also argued that charging higherfees for foreign visitors – who pay no U.S. taxes – and increasing the cost of senior passes could provide a much needed budgetary boost. Read his articlehere
Mr. Secunda, one of the four co-founders of Bloomberg L.P. and Vice Chairman of the organization, identified two main challenges – raising revenue and improving efficiency – as areas where NPS needs to become more business-like. His article, entitled "National Parks Offer Opportunity to Next U.S. President," appeared in a number of publications. He called for Park Superintendents to be given more authority to form public/private partnerships, as well as for easier hiring for temporary and part-time employees who are teachers, students and veterans. Read his article here
And Ms. Wall's article in the respected journal Resources
urges adopting contemporary business practices, expanding the collection of fees well beyond the current 130 sites and differentiating fees by season. These practices would use fees to both increase available funding and influence visitation patterns to reduce overcrowding at peak season. Read her article here
Mr. Secunda puts these important ideas into historical perspective: "The man who led the campaign 100 years ago to create the NPS and who served as its first director, Stephen Mather, made efficient management a top priority. He also introduced concessions to raise needed funds and worked closely with the railroad and automobile industries to promote access to the parks. In taking the job, Mather reportedly said, 'I will put the national parks on a business basis. They need it.' They still do. Today, the National Park Service must rediscover Mather's entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to innovative management, in order to put the parks on a path to success for the next 100 years."
Derrick Crandall, President of the American Recreation Coalition, praised the contribution of the three writers. "These recommendations, combined with efforts already underway including Every Kid in a Park, the 21st
Century Conservation Corps and expansion of summer fun at ski areas on national forests, plus new ideas like Semester of Service in the Outdoors and newpublic/private partnerships that can bring connectivity to frontcountry areas and improve campgrounds and marinas, will allow outdoor recreation to contribute even more to our economy, our unity as a nation and our health."
American Recreation Coalition
1200 G Street, N.W. Suite 650
Washington, D.C. 20005