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Parks hit by federal budget cuts

NATCHEZ — While many people are still waiting or only just beginning to see the effects of sequestration, one place where the across-the-board federal budget cuts were immediately evident were at the national parks.

In Natchez, that’s no different.

Sequestration mandates that the national park service take a 5-percent budget cut. At the Natchez National Historical Park, that reduction comes to $99,200, Park Director Kathleen Jenkins said.

That’s on top of a 3-percent reduction the park already took at the beginning of the 2013 fiscal year.

The 8-percent total reduction in funds will mean that the park will likely not be able to offer many of the special programs it does during the summer months because the park won’t have the funding to hire the necessary staff, Jenkins said.

“We are still hopeful we can continue to offer those programs, but we have issues with not being able to fill some vacancies that we need to fill, so the general reduction in funds will cause us to focus more on our daily operations and less on our partnership activities,” she said.

“We already had a couple of significant vacancies, and the work that would have been done by those people is being done by everyone else, so it just slows us down.”

Rather than furloughing current staff, the park will discontinue non-essential travel and reduce its budget for supplies and equipment, and hours of operation at Melrose or the William Johnson House will be reduced.

It also means that the park’s long-term plans to open the Fort Rosalie site for the Natchez tricentenniel in 2016 will be delayed.

“We are going to move forward with stabilizing the log cabin and doing work on the Stietenroth house, but I don’t know if I will be able to refurbish the interiors of those structures before 2016,” Jenkins said. “We’ll be generating some programming at those sites; the things that we can do on a shoestring budget, we will move forward with.”

The park is planning to operate on its reduced levels at least through 2014, Jenkins said, and will be looking for opportunities in which people can volunteer with the park. She also said the park is looking to form a Friends of the Natchez National Historical Park group.

“Economic downturns are hard on everyone, and the impact this is having on our budget is similar to what other businesses have experienced,” Jenkins said.

“We deal with hurricanes and all kinds of things down here that we can’t control, and we keep moving forward.”

A news release from the Natchez Trace Parkway’s administration said that the Rocky Springs Visitor Center will remain closed for the 2013 season. The Mount Locust Historic Site’s operating hours will remain unchanged and will be open seven days a week, but operating hours may be reduced to five days a week in the late fall.

One of the Rocky Springs comfort stations — campground B — will remain closed for the 2013 season, and the Coles Creek comfort station will be closed Monday through Wednesdays. Parkway grass maintenance will also be reduced, and trash pickup will be done only one day a week.

The Vicksburg National Military Park announced last week that its $153,000 reduction in funds would result in the park’s tour roads being closed two hours earlier — at 5 p.m. — and the U.S.S. Cairo Museum would also close an hour earlier, at 5 p.m. Programs involving schools at the park will be suspended, and trash collection and exterior custodial functions will be reduced by half. grams, but we have issues with not being able to fill some vacancies that we need to fill, so the general reduction in funds will cause us to focus more on our daily operations and less on our partnership activities,” she said.

“We already had a couple of significant vacancies, and the work that would have been done by those people is being done by everyone else, so it just slows us down.”

Rather than furloughing current staff, the park will discontinue non-essential travel and reduce its budget for supplies and equipment, and hours of operation at Melrose or the William Johnson House will be reduced.

It also means that the park’s long-term plans to open the Fort Rosalie site for the Natchez tricentenniel in 2016 will be delayed.

“We are going to move forward with stabilizing the log cabin and doing work on the Stietenroth house, but I don’t know if I will be able to refurbish the interiors of those structures before 2016,” Jenkins said. “We’ll be generating some programming at those sites; the things that we can do on a shoestring budget, we will move forward with.”

The park is planning to operate on its reduced levels at least through 2014, Jenkins said, and will be looking for opportunities in which people can volunteer with the park. She also said the park is looking to form a Friends of the Natchez National Historical Park group.

“Economic downturns are hard on everyone, and the impact this is having on our budget is similar to what other businesses have experienced,” Jenkins said.

“We deal with hurricanes and all kinds of things down here that we can’t control, and we keep moving forward.”

The Rocky Springs Visitor Center will remain closed for the 2013 season. The Mount Locust Historic Site’s operating hours will remain unchanged and will be open seven days a week, but operating hours may be reduced to five days a week in the late fall.

One of the Rocky Springs comfort stations — campground B — will remain closed for the 2013 season, and the Coles Creek comfort station will be closed Monday through Wednesdays. Parkway grass maintenance will also be reduced, and trash pickup will be done only one day a week.

The Vicksburg National Military Park announced last week that its $153,000 reduction in funds would result in the park’s tour roads being closed two hours earlier — at 5 p.m. — and the U.S.S. Cairo Museum would also close an hour earlier, at 5 p.m. Programs involving schools at the park will be suspended, and trash collection and exterior custodial functions will be reduced by half.

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