Archive for 2011

Having already grown accustomed to a dwindling budget in recent years, the National Park Service is now facing the prospect of a decade of across-the-board cuts starting at nearly 8 percent in 2013 plus a cap on discretionary spending that will be in effect from 2012 through 2021.

What this could mean is shorter seasons at some national parks, staff reductions, deferred infrastructure maintenance, campground closings, reduced amenities and, perhaps, increased real estate development within park boundaries, among other cost-cutting casualties, according to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

“Across the park system, it is fair to say that superintendents will be forced to make tough decisions,” said John Garder, the NPCA’s budget and appropriations legislative representative in Washington DC.

In November, the NPCA released a report stating that in fiscal year 2011 the National Park Service had funding reduced by $140 million, including $11.5 million for operations. Since 2002, the report states, the agency’s discretionary budget has decreased from $3 billion to $2.6 billion in today’s dollars.

The organization’s report arrives at a time when the nation is mired in debate over how to trim the federal government’s deficit. The Budget Control Act of 2011, enacted in August, calls for cutting the deficit by roughly $900 billion through caps on discretionary spending beginning in 2012 and ending in 2021. Those spending caps will affect the national park system.

The Budget Control Act also established a deficit-reduction supercommittee, which failed to meet its late-November deadline for devising a plan to trim the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion. The committee’s failure means Congress now has a year to agree on its own legislation before sequestration takes effect in 2013, setting off a decade of automatic cuts.

If Congress fails, automatic 7.8 percent cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, including the National Park Service, will be implemented in 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office. After that, these programs will endure cuts between 5.5 and 7.8 percent through 2021.

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A website posted photos and provided an address in Grand Island, Nebraska. But a Google map search and Grand Island police indicate there is only a vacant lot at the address listed on the website.

A California woman named Pam, who doesn’t want her last name used, believed there was a RV dealership and that her $20,000 down payment would lead to a motor home. Pam said, “On the website there were pictures of RVs with a sign in the background so absolutely I thought there was a big lot there.”

Nebraska State Patrol Auto Fraud investigator Gene True said he couldn’t find any State license for Grand Island Truck and RV center. He said three buyers have filed reports that campers or motor homes they purchased had not been delivered. True said one man drove to Grand Island from Oregon only to discover the dealership was not at the address on the website.

True said the victims have reported losses totaling almost $60,000. True said, “I’ve never heard of anybody getting their money back.”

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What qualities do campers most value when considering where to pitch a tent or hook up the RV?

Good service is key, of course. But dependable Wi-Fi is also big on campers’ wish lists.

So says Bob MacKinnon of GuestRated.com, a sort of TripAdvisor for the outdoors set. For the past four years, the site has invited happy (as well as unhappy) campers to share their evaluations of RV parks and campgrounds they’ve slumbered in. Results for 2011 – consisting of 30,000 responses covering 3,000 individual facilities – are out. And while the A-list (44 campgrounds made the top grade) is too lengthy to get into here, 12 of those have earned a perfect grade for four years running.

They are:

Complete results will be available Jan. 1 on GuestRated.com and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds websites.

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