By Peter Becker
UPPER DELAWARE - Federal budget cuts brought by the March 1st sequestration are impacting the National Park Service units on the Delaware River.
National Park Service units across the country are impacted by a five percent budget cut, said Sean McGuiness, Superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River.
Making do with less and working together with others are ways they expect to cope.
Out of their approximately $3 million budget, the Upper Delaware unit has had to trim the budget by $164,000. No layoffs are foreseen at this time, McGuiness said, but several seasonal positions won't be filled. Despite this, he said he expects to continue a reduced level of public programs and maintain their water safety campaign which he said is a top priority.
Cut from the budget were positions for three seasonal park rangers: a maintenance person, a law enforcement ranger and an interpretive ranger for programs. In addition, a vacant facilities manager position will not be filled, although duties are being taken up by their Chief of Interpretation.
Supplies were cut and there is a prohibition on travel expenses unless absolutely necessary.
Sequestration also impacts the Upper Delaware Council (UDC), which receives its annual $300,000 funding through the Upper Delaware unit of the Park Service. McGuiness said that the UDC budget was slashed by $13,000.
The UDC, which is a nonprofit partnership formed by Congress to oversee the Upper Delaware River Management Plan, has dealt continually without an increase in funding since its formation in 1988.
He stated that the five percent cut is expected to become a way of life for the foreseeable future, barring any legislative intervention. A few months ago, Park Service units began to plan in the event the cuts would occur.
The next date federal agencies are looking at is March 27, when Congress needs to pass a budget or have a continuing resolution in place to avert a government shut down. McGuiness said that in his 30 years with the Park Service, he does not recall budget cuts as severe.
Seasonal positions, McGuiness noted, are key to visitor services. One bright lining may be a growing partnership with the public sector who loves what the Park Service has been able to offer.
To help make up for the staffing reduction, he said, volunteers with the National Canoe Safety Patrol expect to increase their aid on the Delaware River, serving as eyes and ears for the Park rangers.
In addition, the volunteer Zane Grey Society, with the aid of the Pike County Historical Society, expects to assist at the Zane Grey Museum in Lackawaxen to help the Park Service keep this valued asset open and its programs available to the public.
Ways to partner with their sister agency, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (DWGNRA) unit of the National Park Service, are foreseen. McGuiness said that the two parks already work together on promoting visitor safety, which includes the use of life jackets.
They have also started working together on visitor programs and water quality studies, and could help each other with cultural resources.
A report from the DWGNRA on the impacts from sequestration on the Middle Delaware, is still pending.