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National Parks in Miss. Cutting Back

By Daniel Cherry | Published 29 Mar 2013 05:47pm | comments
Mississippi's 8 national parks are cutting hundreds of thousands of dollars and that means fewer employees and programs. The parks are feeling the pinch since sequestration budget cuts took effect.  
 
Parks are cutting hours of operation, visitor centers, and in some cases employees. Mike Madell, Superintendent of the Vicksburg National Military Park says he having to let his education specialist go and that means much less time to interact with school groups.
 
"We will still do youth programming, school programming with the remaining staff but we will not have that dedicated person any longer. I can't say specific numbers, but it will be reduced by a factor of probably 80% or so from what we've done in the last few years," said park visitor, Allen Ainsworth.
 
 On Friday Ainsworth and his wife Pat were touring the Vicksburg park. They're planning a trip this Fall to go visit about a half dozen parks. 
 
"We're going to Gettysburg, going to go to Antietam, Fredericksburg."
 
Ainsworth says he's keeping a close eye on the cuts.
 
"It's a shame because we just retired, and we're just getting the chance now to do a little traveling."
 
National parks in Mississippi like the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the Natchez Trace are also scaling back. The most noticeable changes will be park hours. Many parks will shut down at 5 in the summer season rather than at 7. The military park is a huge tourist destination in Vicksburg, but Laura Beth Strickland with the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn't think the city will feel the impact too hard.
 
"It will affect the people that like to drive in late in the day in the summertime, but at the same time, they'll know the times they can go and eat at a good restaurant or go check out some downtown attractions while they're open."
 
The National Park Service estimates in 2011 Mississippi communities saw more than 100 million dollars in economic benefit from park tourism. 

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