Sequestration would bring setbacks to local tourism - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Sequestration would bring setbacks to local tourism

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GLEN JEAN (WVVA) -- A national crisis would mean a big hit to Southern West Virginia tourism.  If mandatory budget cuts from sequestration go through on Friday, the National Park Service will be cutting back, which would affect area tourists and the money they bring to the local economy. 

"We had over one million visitors in 2011, who generated about $53 million for the local economy in dollars that they spent," says Robin Snyder, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services at National Park Services. 

Those dollars might be spent elsewhere if the parks reduce spending by five percent as expected.

They'll be eliminating seasonal positions throughout multiple departments, plus looking for volunteers to run Thurmond Depot and Grandview Visitor Centers.

"If we are unable to provide those services, those visitor centers will be closed.  That will be about 11,500 people who would not be served who walk into those visitor center doors each summer," says Snyder.

The numbers get even bigger.  They'd also have fewer educational opportunities, special events, patrols and transportation, which would affect thousands of visitors expected to the New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Park and Bluestone in 2013 alone. 

Politicians fear a sequestration would affect the economy even beyond the parks, statewide.

"I hope we don't face sequestration, it's a terrible word.  It means terrible consequences," says Rep. Nick Rahall, (D) West Virginia.  "It's a meat ax type of approach to solving our deficit problems, while I favor a more balanced approach."

Plus the parks have already reduced the budget five percent this decade.  The sequestration would be an additional five percent cut on top of that.  They say they'll do what they can to support and protect visitors and the local economy this tourism season. 

"We've looked very carefully at these operations and how we can possibly sustain them, but there is going to be some impact.  There's no way around it, if the sequestration occurs," says Snyder. 

Even if the sequestration does not take place on March 1, Snyder says they'll still be carefully managing their resources to prepare for another potential budget cut down the road. 

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