Budget Concerns Lead To Cutbacks At Lassen Volcanic National Park

With a second phase of budget cuts set to kick in in January, officials at Lassen Volcanic National Park in California have announced reductions in visitor center hours through the winter.

The park's Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center, with the exception of the vestibule and restrooms, will be closed to the public December 1 through March 31 due to the ongoing budget concerns.

When the government shutdown ended, Congress provided funds to operate the parks through January 15, with final funding to be resolved after that, park officials said in a release.

"This decision was not made lightly, but was necessary in an effort to reduce costs associated with keeping the visitor center open and staffed during the winter," said Park Superintendent Darlene M. Koontz. "Alternatives to closing the visitor center were analyzed. However, faced with the continuing budget uncertainty, hard decisions had to be made to ensure that the park can provide services to winter visitors while maintaining adequate funding in reserve for summer when our visitation is highest."

The visitor center's closure will have downstream ramifications, as both the Lassen Association bookstore and Lassen Café and Gifts will be closed during this time and so will lose sales revenues.

The road to the visitor center will remain open with limited parking. The plowing of the road will occur following each storm period. Be aware the road will be closed during times of severe weather.

Visitors planning a trip to Lassen should check the current road status before traveling to the park, and it is highly recommended that all visitors, especially backcountry travelers, are aware of the projected weather conditions and snow levels during your visit to the park.

Consider stowing a shovel, extra blankets and tire chains in your vehicle as road conditions can deteriorate quickly. An emergency telephone is located in the Kohm Yah-mah-nee vestibule. Overnight visitors are required to obtain a wilderness permit before entering the backcountry, also available in the vestibule.

"We ask for understanding as people encounter changes to park operations and encourage visitors to explore other areas of the park, including Manzanita Lake," said Superintendent Koontz.

This year, ranger-led snowshoe walks will be offered to the public in the Manzanita Lake area on Saturdays and Sundays January 11 through March 23, weather permitting. Join a ranger for a one to two-mile adventure exploring winter ecology and Lassen's geologic history. Visitors should meet the ranger outside the Loomis Ranger Station on the plaza at 1 p.m. and come prepared for a range of winter conditions. Dress in layers, carry food and drinking water. A limited number of snowshoes will be available for a $1 donation.

Visitor services will continue to be provided through the park's website and over the telephone.

"Whether planning your overnight backcountry trip or a day of family fun on the nearby sledding hill, you can still get the information you need from our park rangers over the telephone, by email, or the park website and social media," the superintendent said.

To re-open the government, Congress provided funds at Fiscal Year 2013 levels through January 15; final funding for Fiscal Year 2014 will not be resolved before then. Given the continuing fiscal uncertainty, the National Park Service will exercise extreme caution in spending to ensure that available funding is directed to the highest resource priorities and serves the most visitors.

The winter closure of the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center will reduce the cost of winter operations by approximately $43,000. The savings will be realized through a reduction in utilities, personnel, supplies, snow removal operations and fuel. Lassen Volcanic will evaluate the effectiveness of the closure at the end of the winter season and conduct a cost benefit analysis to help guide decisions in future years.

During the four months the visitor center will be closed, the park sees on average 5,300 visitors, or approximately 44 visitors a day. The majority of Lassen's visitors come to the park in the summer months, with more visitations on a single day in July than most winter months. Visitation to the visitor center during the winter months of December, January, February, and March has been low with average monthly visitation totals for the past three years being 1,100 / 1,700 / 1,500 and 1,000 respectively.

For information regarding ranger-led programs, backcountry permits, and weather and road conditions visit the park website at www.nps.gov/lavo or call the park at (530) 595-4480, daily, from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Comments


Something is amiss with the stats in this article. Official NPS visitor use stats for LAVO in 2012 indicate that the park sees over 20,000 visitors in the four months the park is planned to be closed this year (Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar). With only 5k of those actually going to the vc, it appears the facility isn't much of a draw for winter users anyway. As such, the superintendent made the right call to close the vc for the winter. With such low numbers, it makes one wonder why it was kept open anyway (with or without a budget shortfall). It appears, that for the most part, the public won't even notice the closure. In the Utah park I worked in, the vc was kept open and staffed in the winter when we'd sometimes see no visitors many days, and the few that did stop in were there to use the restrooms.

Not sure but I would suspect that during these slow winter months there is someone somewhere at Lassen who spends their days sitting at a desk in front of a computer doing work (or online shopping, or facebooking) who could do the same at that visitor center and keep it open for the few who do come. There is no doubt some kind of bureaucratic red tape that prevents this simple solution. But the real barrier is the attitude among too many in the NPS who do all they can to get to the point that they don't have to interact with the public.

" But the real barrier is the attitude among too many in the NPS who do all they can to get to the point that they don't have to interact with the public."

Alleged but not proven. My experience has been the exact opposite. Even those NPS employees who have a job not working directly with the public - archivists, maintenance, trail crew, office workers, whatever - I've seen time after time respond politely and appropriately when approached.

May I second Rick's motion?

RickB, nice post. I agree. Perpetual seasonal is right that there are a minority who see only their own situation, job position, etc, but my own experience is that vast majority of our NPS employees bend over backwards to be friendly and helpful. Great article in "Mother Jones" (and other reporting news sources) on the NPS testifying on a congressional bill that would exclude National Parks from future governmental shutdowns. It is great to see the NPS get tough for a change and tell these "hate the government crowd" to do there own job, then there would be no need for future governmental shutdowns for any body. Backed up with very creditable stats. etc.

I am beginning to understand why perpertual seasonal is a perpetual seasonal if his/her posts are similar to his/her attitude on the job.

Rick

Rick, before I read this comment of yours I was reading a comment you posted a few months back where you subtlety billeted Bruce Schundler's efforts to expose corruption at Mesa Verde. This is a man who at great personal sacrifice did a great service to the public, and our agency, by exposing that the Mese Verde superintendent had spent $400,000 in 2009 on travel forcing him into early retirement. All this was accomplished despite all the powers that be in the agency throwing up every road block they could to keep him from uncovering the information. Not bad for a lowly seasonal I'll say.

Instead of giving Bruce a medal and thanking him for his service the incoming acting super at Mesa Verde ordered Bruce's supervisor not to rehire him despite his outstanding job performance and despite all the stuff they tell you in the annual "no fear" training. In fact the agency was so vindictive that Schundler's wife was also targeted for reprisal because of his efforts.

And if you are critical of me as well I'm proud to be in such good company.

If you want to know the epic saga of Bill's fight to clean up his park it is documented in meticulous detail at this site: http://www.schundler.net/TheDarkSide.htm

As far as I know, Bill Schundler isn't posting here.

Perpetual seasonal, very informative post, as was the www.schundler.net website, thank you. In my own mind, there is no question that malfeasance does exist both in the NPS and other federal agencies (not to mention the same type of behavior in the private sector). I have observed this behavior, both as Army officer, Park Ranger and in several positions I held both before my employment with the NPS, and after, in the private sector jobs I have held. It is interesting that we citizens support reporting malfeasance, but somewhere in our minds, when someone does "blow the whistle", we consider the person some kind of traitor to the brotherhood, etc. I have no answers, human nature is a complex issue, taking on authority is not good for ones career, that is for sure. I have to agree with you, we should be supporting the Mr. Bruno, Mr. Berkowitz, Mr. Schundler and others in those cases where fraud and abuse allegations are well founded, not demeaning them.

I have a very high regard for the NPS, but I know it is a human organization fraught with issues you point out. It is good to discuss them and sometimes constructive changes are the result. The Traveler is a great forum to both support parks and point out issues or policies that can improve the NPS organization.

Thank you Ron. Very well said. National Parks Traveler has become an excellent forum for open discussion of both strengths and weaknesses within the national park system, and hopefully, out of these online posts which reflect sharing of different perspectives and experiences, overall improvement will occur as we approach the next century of the National Park Service.