Park Service:

Visitor Center Project Costs, Size, and Functions Vary Widely

GAO-01-781: Published: Jun 27, 2001. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 2001.

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Barry T. Hill
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Visitor centers at the national parks are among the most important facilities run by the National Park Service. As existing visitor centers age and new parks are created, renovated or new facilities are needed. This report discusses (1) the number, the status, and the reasons for Park Service visitor center projects; (2) whether the projects involve new construction or the renovation of existing buildings; (3) whether these projects were designated priorities by the Park Service or by Congress; (4) the costs and functions of the projects; and (5) the funding sources for the projects. GAO found that from 1996 through 2005, the Park Service has completed or planned 80 projects to renovate or build new visitor centers. The renovations and new construction are intended to replace aging facilities and exhibits, to provide more space, and to handle rising numbers of visitors. Of the 80 projects, 53 were a priority of the Park Service and 27 were a priority of Congress. The Park Service estimates that the total cost of the 80 projects will be $542 million. The visitor center projects are funded primarily by the Park Service's appropriated funds. Other funding sources include private partnerships and fee demonstrations.

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