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May 9, 2013 at 1:38 PM

Mount Rainier closing visitor center, cutting campground season

In the Ohanapecosh area of Mount Rainier National Park, ancient trees grow tall in the Grove of the Patriarchs. Visitor services will be cut in the area. (Steve Ringman photo, The Seattle Times

In the Ohanapecosh area of Mount Rainier National Park, ancient trees grow tall in the Grove of the Patriarchs. Visitor services will be cut in the area this summer. (Steve Ringman photo, The Seattle Times)

Mount Rainier National Park is cutting some visitor services this summer because of “sequestration” –  the federal budget cuts that have shaved the park’s operating budget by 5 percent this year.

A popular visitor center won’t open for the summer season and campgrounds will open later and close earlier than planned since the park has not been able to hire the staff necessary to keep everything going.  Mount Rainier had $11.35 million for operations last year, according to a park statement, but the federally mandated cuts have reduced that to $10.75 million for the fiscal year ending in September.

The biggest cutbacks will fall on Ohanapecosh, a popular visitor area and large  campground on the east side of the park (not at Paradise or Sunrise, two other popular visitor areas). Here’s the text on the cutbacks from the  Mount Rainier  superintendent’s office:

       The Ohanapecosh Visitor Center will not open this summer. Closure of the Ohanapecosh Visitor Center (OVC) will impact approximately 60,000 to 85,000 visitors during the 130 days that the OVC would normally open each summer.  This closure will also result in the elimination of formal interpretive programs and informal roving interpretation in the Ohanapecosh area (approximately 400 visitor programs/contacts for 27,000 visitors annually).  Uniformed presence will be reduced in the surrounding area, including Grove of the Patriarchs and Box Canyon. The public restrooms outside the visitor center will remain open.

Ohanapecosh Campground- shortened season by two weeks

The Ohanapecosh Campground will close two weeks earlier, on September 29 instead of October 14, resulting in the loss of approximately 680 camper nights.

Cougar Rock Campground- shortened season by six weeks

By opening Cougar Rock Campground four weeks later (June 27 instead of May 24) and closing two weeks earlier (September 29 instead of October 14), the park would impact the least number of visitors and be able to wait until more of the snow is melted before taking on clearing activities. The delayed opening also enables an early start on a power line replacement project. Total camper nights impacted by the six week season reduction are estimated at 1,700-1,800.

Carbon River Contact Station- staff reduction

In order to meet target reductions for FY2013, Mount Rainier National Park will reduce the number of seasonal fee collectors from three to two in the Carbon River Contact Station. It is expected that this staffing reduction will diminish hours that the contact station can be staffed, reducing availability of information, trip planning services, general assistance, and fee collection.

Mount Rainier Superintendent Randy King concluded: “We’ve had to make some difficult yet necessary adjustments in operations this year, and have strived to minimize the impact of those decisions on visitors.  The park will be open and accessible and will continue to provide an array of outstanding experiences and services.  We look forward to welcoming people to their park this summer.”

Comments | More in Northwest, Parks | Topics: federal spending cuts, mount rainier national park, ohanapecosh

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