Budget Cuts Could Close Some U.S. Parks, Mott Warns

Times Staff Writer

National Park Service Director William Penn Mott warned Thursday that some parks may be closed and visitor fees raised sharply in order to meet constraints of the new federal Gramm-Rudman budget-balancing law.

The cuts required by the recently enacted legislation will not substantially affect the $1-billion National Park Service budget during 1986-87 but "it will become serious in 1988," Mott told a press conference.

To help offset the reductions and maintain the parks system "at a level of quality," Mott said he wants the cost of weeklong visits increased next year from the current fee of $2 per car to $10 at such major parks as Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier.

"The cuts may be such that we will have to make serious adjustments that may include closing some units (of the park system)," he said.

Mott, a former California director of parks and recreation who was appointed national parks director last year by President Reagan, said he will not know the extent of the possible closures until he gets the new budget early next year.

Meanwhile, he said, the agency is beginning work on developing information that will help him decide which of the 330 national parks, historical sites and recreation areas throughout the country may have to be closed. There are six national parks in California.

Normally, increased user fees result in lower attendance but Mott said the park system is anticipating a 20% increase in the number of visitors, due mainly to lower gasoline prices and increases in terrorism abroad.

Another means of saving money and improving park atmosphere, he said, would be a moratorium on further development of park roads with 60-m.p.h. speed limits. Instead he said, building roads designed to handle a 30-m.p.h. maximum speed would be cheaper because they would not require the wide traffic lanes and shoulders needed on those built for faster traffic.

"People will have to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the parks and that's going to save us money," he said.

Mott also outlined several plans to "fill the deficiencies" in the park system. Included is a wild river national park at a site yet to be selected, a park celebrating the heritage of American Indians and a 100,000-acre Tall Grass Prairie Park in Oklahoma.

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