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Park Service can't reform itself

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Dear HCN,

"Shrink To Fit" (HCN, 11/12/94), about downsizing the Park Service, hit me where I used to live. Almost 40 years ago I began a Park Service career as a laborer on a trail maintenance crew at Many Glacier. Two months ago I was one of the 425 who took the "buyout" and retired.

Karl Hess has some excellent points, and the best may be that a Park Service run from an increasing number of regional power bases is not a step in the right direction.

The Service's Organic Act states that the agency will preserve the parks and keep them unimpaired for future generations, and provide for use. The agency may have met the mandate while managing through regional offices and "service centers' with hundreds of very highly paid employees. Now it is going to set the stage to increase those central office numbers by hundreds more.

The Park Service is going to increase the raw resources allocated to central offices - money, personnel - at the expense of the parks. I seriously doubt there will be any delegation of authority to park superintendents. In fact, it is most likely to go the other way.

To date, power and money have been the dominion of the Washington and regional offices. Now those very power bases have been asked to downsize themselves - not to reform the way business has been done, so a reorganization is under way which sets the stage for even less resources in the parks (fewer rangers, more deteriorating facilities, etc.), and a bigger central office operation. Those slimmer field offices won't stay slim for long, because that just isn't the way bureaucracies work.

What can be done? Give national park superintendents all the support you can. Get involved with that local park staff and let them know what you think needs doing. If you don't like some program let the staff know, and let your congressional delegation know. Raise a little hell, demand accountability and insist on pushing what little money there is to the parks, not to those central offices.

Peter Thompson

Hobart, Washington

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