Seeing parks with 20/20 vision

  Some fast-moving congressional legislation is aiming to change how the National Park Service does business. The bill would make visitors continue to "pay to play" and also would require Hollywood to cough up some cash before filming scenic park vistas. But critics say private park concessionaires would continue to take the Park Service for a ride.

The "Vision 2020 National Parks Restoration Act," sponsored by Wyoming Republican Sen. Craig Thomas and approved by the Senate in June, passed through the House Resources Committee in early August. The bill "strikes a balance" between the interests of the parks and the interests of concessions, says Dan Kunsman from Thomas' office.

But Jerome Uher of the nonprofit National Parks and Conservation Association criticizes the "sweetheart contracting practices' between the National Park Service and private concessionaires. Although the Park Service owns the buildings and manages land occupied by concessions, he says, concessionaires are still required to pay only 2.9 percent of their profit back to the park.

The text of S. 1693 can be found on the Library of Congress Web page at, but be forewarned: Senate bills share this address with the Starr Report. You can also obtain a copy from the Senate Document Room, Hart Office Building Room B04, Washington DC 20510.

*Jennifer Chergo

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