PHOENIX - National Park Service budget cuts are blamed for longer lines, reduced hours and dirtier bathrooms at Grand Canyon National Park and other Arizona attractions.
The Arizona Republic reported Monday that effects from the federal sequestration have doubled peak wait times at the Grand Canyon just as the summer tourist season begins.
Officials said cuts also have forced a reduced staff to limit the number of times they clean restrooms for a park that draws 4 million visitors a year. In addition, visitor centers close two hours earlier than in previous summers, and ranger-led programs for visitors have been reduced.
"We can't have a $1.3 million cut in budget operations ... without showing the impacts," park Superintendent David Uberuaga said.
"If you were a businessman, you would never do that," said Kevin Dahl, Arizona program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "You would want to prop up what's important to you" and eliminate what is not.
But the long lines and reduced services seem like a ploy to David Williams, president of the Virginia-based Taxpayers Protection Alliance.
"As we've seen with every (federal) agency," he said, "they want to make the cuts as visible as possible. Even though it's only 5 percent, they want to do it in the way that affects the most people - the public - so that when they go back to normal budgeting they'll make the case for increases."
Meanwhile, at Saguaro National Park, Superintendent Darla Sidles said she was unable to replace a ranger who left the park's Rincon Mountain District, east of Tucson. That's where vandals spray-painted gang signs at 48 locations, including on 11 saguaros. Subsequent placement of motion-detecting cameras caught other vandals who hacked up saguaros.
The district will get attention from the chief ranger, Sidles said, but "it certainly reduces our capacity, both with the investigation as well as the field operations."
At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southwest Arizona, a program to educate Border Patrol agents about wilderness values and research in national parks also has been put on hold.
"We can't have a $1.3 million cut in budget
operations ... without showing the impacts."
David Uberuaga, park superintendent