Budget cuts will affect national parks

Fort Caroline, Timucuan Preserve, Castillo de San Marcos face cuts

Castillo de San Marcos
Castillo de San Marcos

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Friday's looming budget cuts could force layoffs of park rangers and weekday access at area national parks.

Fort Caroline National Monument, Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and the Castillo de San Marcos may not be regular stops for northeast Florida residents, but they do attract visitors to the area.

"We plan vacation where there are national parks because we love to hike and learn about our history," said park visitor Bonnie Bahlhuser. "That is why we came to Jacksonville for our vacation this week."

Park managers say they are working on a plan if their budget gets cut as part of the mandatory spending cuts known in Washington D.C. as the sequester, but they hope it won't mean closing of the parks.

Among the first things to go would be five park rangers, and the weekday tours that 6,000 school children visit every year.

"It means cutting our daily programs and providing them on weekends. That's over 20,000 visitors," said Barbara Goodman, superintendent of Fort Caroline National Monument. "It also means cutting ranger-led school groups."

The cuts make little sense to visitors.

"We spend so little, very little of our tax money on the parks, and yet they are one of the most important pieces of history, nature, and it would be a shame," visitor Teri Lewis said.