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WASHINGTON — The National Park Hospitality Association (NPHA) expressed strong support for the decision made this week by the U.S. Department of the Interior to allow use of funds collected from park visitors to protect parks and park visitors during the lapse in park appropriations.
The use of private money was authorized under the authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.
“NPHA has actively supported visitor fee retention by federal recreation providers and use of collected funds for visitor-related purposes,” said NPHA Chairman Scott Socha. “That position is clearly reflected in 16 U.S. Code Chapter 87 – Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement (FLREA).”
“NPHA also strongly supports learning from experiences arising from federal shutdowns where parks and park visitors are unintended victims of the inability of the White House and the Congress to reach agreement on appropriated funding,” Socha added.
“The October 2013 shutdown was painful to millions of Americans who were denied entry to parks. That shutdown cost concessioners, thousands of their employees and gateway communities millions of dollars,” he explained. “Congress eventually paid furloughed federal workers but not those partners to parks that also suffered.
“We welcomed the commitment of this administration to avoid a repeat of the draconian action of 2013 and its receptivity to more than 50 agreements involving states, local communities, concessioners and others to maintain access to parks and underwrite key services like law enforcement, trash and restrooms,” said Socha.
NPHA noted that there are great success stories about partnerships allowing continuing public access across the nation – at the Statue of Liberty and Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon and Alcatraz.
But some park units were unable to forge and sustain these partnerships and now face a needless choice between closure or allowing resource damage and social conflict, he explained.
“Interior’s action provides a new valuable and logical tool, opening up limited access to more than $400 million in non-appropriated funds paid by park visitors to underwrite visitor services but not yet obligated,” said Socha.
Information on concessioner contributions to meeting shutdown needs, as well as support of parks through capital investments, support of guest contributions and highlighting lesser known park units and non-peak seasons is available through NPHA by visiting www.parkpartners.org.
SOURCE: National Park Hospitality Association press release