National Park Service:

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

T-RCED-95-124: Published: Mar 7, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 7, 1995.

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GAO discussed the National Park Service's ability to fulfill its mission of serving visitors and managing park resources, focusing on whether the Park Service can correct any degradation in visitor services or park resources. GAO noted that: (1) the overall level of park visitor services has deteriorated; (2) although the public's satisfaction with national parks remains high, many trails, campgrounds, exhibits, and other facilities are declining; (3) the Park Service estimates that its deferred maintenance backlog has grown to more than $4 billion since 1988; (4) most parks do not have the data needed to manage its resources properly or determine the overall condition of each park's natural and cultural resources; (5) the two most common factors that influence the level of visitor services and resource management activities are additional operating requirements and increased visitation; (6) because the current budget climate makes substantial increases in appropriations unlikely, the Park Service will need to generate more revenue within the parks, limit the number of parks in the park system, and reduce the level of visitor services; and (7) the Park Service needs to operate more efficiently and improve its accountability to ensure its resources are effectively spent.

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