National Parks:

Difficult Choices Need to Be Made About the Future of the Parks

RCED-95-238: Published: Aug 30, 1995. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the current condition of 12 national park units, focusing on: (1) whether any deterioration in visitor services or park resources is occurring at the 12 units; (2) what factors contribute to the degradation of visitor services and parks' natural and cultural resources; and (3) the National Park Service's efforts in dealing with these problems.

GAO found that: (1) there is cause for concern about the condition of national parks for both visitor services and resource management; (2) the overall level of visitor services is deteriorating at most parks; (3) services are being cut back and the condition of many trails, campgrounds, and other facilities are declining; (4) effective resource management is difficult because most park managers lack sufficient data to determine the overall condition of their parks' natural and cultural resources; (5) parks have difficulty meeting additional operating requirements and accomodating increased visitation; and (6) the Park Service is considering increasing the amount of financial resources going to parks, limiting or reducing the number of units in the park system, and reducing the level of visitor services to improve its financial management and performance measurement systems.

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