Changes Coming To Natchez Trace Parkway As Staff Juggles Budget Cuts

Fewer rangers, reduced visitor center hours, and longer grass are among the things you might notice along the Natchez Trace Parkway this summer due to budget cuts. NPS photo.

Longer grass, fewer rangers, and shorter operational hours are materializing along the Natchez Trace Parkway as National Park Service managers cope with budget cuts implemented by the failure of the White House and Congress to correct the country's fiscal footing.

To meet the required financial reductions, the Parkway is reducing costs in the areas of permanent and seasonal employment, overtime, training, travel, and supply purchases. Within the coming weeks the adjustments listed below will be taken to implement the sequestration cut.

While these reductions are necessary to comply with sequestration, the park remains open, welcoming visitors and continuing to protect the resources.

Staffing

* Five vacant permanent positions will not be filled.

* Fifteen seasonal employee positions will not be hired

Park Operations

Reduced staffing will result in changes to park operations in the following areas:

* Parkway Visitor Centers: There will be a change in operating hours for the Visitor Centers along the Parkway at the following mileposts (MP).

* Meriwether Lewis Visitor Center (TN, MP 386): Operating hours will be reduced from 5 days/week full time to 2 days/week full time (Saturday/Sunday) and 3 days/week part time (Wednesday-Friday).

* Colbert Ferry Visitor Center (AL, MP 328): Will remain closed for the 2013 season.

* Tupelo Visitor Center (MS, MP 266): Operating hours remain unchanged; open 7 days/week.

* Ridgeland Visitor Center (MS, MP 102): Operating hours will be reduced from 5 days/week to 2 days/week (Friday/Saturday).

* Rocky Springs Visitor Center (MS, MP 55): Will remain closed for the 2013 season.

* Mount Locust Historic Site (MS, MP 15): Operating hours remain unchanged; open 7 days/week but with minimum staffing on 4 of those days. Operating hours may be reduced to 5 days/week in late fall.

Parkway Comfort Stations

There will be a change in operating hours for the comfort stations along the Parkway:

* Eight will remain open as scheduled: MP 386 Meriwether Lewis Parking Lot, MP 386 Meriwether Lewis Campground, MP 266 Tupelo Visitor Center, MP 193 Jeff Busby Service Station, MP 193 Jeff Busby Campground, MP 102 Ridgeland Visitor Center, MP 55 Rocky Springs Campground A, MP 15 Mount Locust

* Four will remain closed this summer: MP 193 Jeff Busby Picnic Area, MP 193 Jeff Busby Little Mountain, MP 55 Rocky Springs Campground B, MP 55 Rocky Springs Picnic Area

* Fourteen will be closed two days a week: Closed Monday a.m. through Wednesday a.m. will be MP 386 Meriwether Lewis Little Swan, MP 378 Jack's Branch, MP 364 Glenrock, MP 233 Witch Dance, MP 55 Rocky Springs Visitor Center, MP 17 Coles Creek.

Closed Wednesday a.m. through Friday a.m.: MP 428 Garrison Creek, MP 408 Gordon House, MP 405 Jackson Falls, MP 328 Colbert Ferry Visitor Center, MP 328 Colbert Ferry Boat Ramp, MP 287 Pharr Mounds, MP 154 Holly Hill, MP 123 River Bend

Parkway Landscape Maintenance

There will be a change in the landscape maintenance of the Parkway.

* The road shoulder area will be mowed 15-30 feet wide as needed to provide a safe pull-off area for motorists.

* Intersections, turnouts, and around buildings will be mowed on an as-needed basis.

* The remaining grassed areas of the Parkway will be mowed 1-2 times, and the wood line and agricultural fields will be mowed once.

* Trash pickup will be reduced by one day per week.