- Created on Thursday, 10 October 2013 15:32
- Written by Western National Parks Association
Tucson, Arizona - While the government shutdown may seem abstract to many, for Western National Parks Association--based in Tucson for decades- it's very real.
"Today, WNPA's business is almost completely shut down," said executive director James E. Cook. "102 of our employees are unable to go to work. Tens of thousands of dollars in revenue are lost every day. And our ability to support national parks is dwindling."
WNPA is a private nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. For 75 years, the association has worked to make the national park experience possible for everyone. Among many other programs and activities, WNPA operates the nonprofit stores in national park visitor centers in 12 Western states-some 80 park stores total. Net proceeds from sales are returned to the parks, which, in turn, are used to help parks with their education programming and research.
"When national parks are closed, WNPA stores are closed, and the cycle of support stops," Cook said. "If the government shutdown continues much longer, we will be forced to furlough staff. Unlike government workers, there will be no back pay for furloughed time off when the government reopens. I cannot tell you how devastating this will be to our entire organization--including our staff and their families."
The pain is felt across the Tucson metropolitan region, too. The city has long benefitted from being the hub for several national parks, with $21.9 million in local economic benefit, including supporting 294 jobs. Many sectors of the local economy--from hotels and restaurants to the broader travel industry--are directly affected.
Camp Moreno, a Denver-based organization that facilitates bringing inner-city youth and their families to our country's national parks, was forced to cancel youth trips to Saguaro National Park this weekend and to Chamizal National Memorial the following weekend.
"We're devastated," said Camp Moreno founder Roberto Moreno. "In the eight years we've been operating, we have never cancelled an event. When you try to provide a transformative event to a child, you don't cancel them."
It is no question that the many government employees who are furloughed are suffering, but there are also many dedicated nonprofits like Camp Moreno and WNPA, as well as commercial operations in and around national parks that are struggling with the very real effects of the shutdown.
"Perhaps most disturbing, though, is how the shutdown disrupts the great American national park experience," Cook said. "National parks hold our nation's beauty, culture and heritage. We turn to national parks to experience spectacular wilderness. Families plan once-in-a-lifetime trips to learn about our history. Schools use the parks to extend and enhance the classroom. Kids have 'aha!' moments that last a lifetime."
Such "aha!" moments are on hold as long as the parks remain closed.