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    Federal budget cuts mean less staff, no tours Hot Springs Ntl. Park

    8:01 PM, Mar 8, 2013   |    comments
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    Video: Federal budget cuts mean less staff, no tours Hot Springs NT

    • Hot Springs National Park. (Photo: Max Seigle, THV 11)

    HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) -Federal budget cuts are forcing Hot Springs National Park to trim close to $230,000 from its budget through the end of September, and park leaders said visitors will notice some differences.

    Julie Gunnoe and her best friend turn Hot Springs National Park into their "gym" every day. There is a lot to soak in along the way.

    "We take advantage of our lunch hour and come hike the trails, run the mountain, walk the promenade," Gunnoe said. "It's just beautiful around every corner."

    But for the next several months, things will change here as budget cuts take effect.

    "I had not heard about them previously but am very interested because it affects us here a great deal," Gunnoe said.

    "We are going to cut in the level of seasonal employees that we have to give the tours that people are used to when they visit a national park," Park Superintendent Josie Fernandez said.

    Superintendent Fernandez said the cancelled tours are for Bath House Row and the park's trails. The visitor's center will also close at 5 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. in the summer. Upkeep of the grounds will take a dip, too.

    "Fewer employees to do maintenance, so that is where you're going to see the trail work lacking, and the manicured lawns will be mowed less," Fernandez said.

    "The maintenance is always well kept here, and I'd hate to have our visitors see something less than what it can be," Gunnoe said.

    It's a disappointment for park regulars, but Hernandez said they'll work to do more with less.

    "We're going to continue to keep our mind and our endeavors focused on serving our visitors in doing all that we can so their experience can be a good one given the circumstances that we have to operate in," Fernandez said.

    Another item on the chopping block is an evening camping program at the park. One area they are not cutting back on is their seasonal law enforcement staff. Fernandez said that's just one area they can't scale back on for the protection of their patrons.

    Hot Springs tourism leaders said these cuts are unfortunate but feel the park will do its best to accommodate visitors. They said the city will also keep its visitor's center open later in the summer.

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