Funding and cuts a problem for National Park Service

CALUMET TOWNSHIP – Funding for federal agencies and programs is tight, including for the National Park Service, so the Keweenaw National Historical Park Advisory Commission is offering to lend the park assistance to make up for possible funding shortcomings, according to Scott See.

During his report to the Advisory Commission members during their regular quarterly meeting Tuesday, See, AC executive director, said he’s been working with representatives of the National Park Service to see what impacts the sequestration of funds in Congress may have on the park and if the AC can give any assistance.

“To that end, the Commission recently offered to provide additional funding to the NPS for several key interpretive and educational programs that the NPS had to recently reduce or eliminate,” he said.

See said NPS officials are working to determine if there are appropriate personnel available to efficiently make use of the funding.

See said he recently completed collecting statistics regarding the KNHP Heritage Site partners for 2012, and the results were positive.

“In aggregate, the Heritage Sites served over 274,000 visitors, contributed just under 54,000 volunteer hours, spent over $2.1 million, and employed 18 full-time employees and 74 part-time employes,” he said.

Those statistics show the Heritage Sites are important contributors to the park’s efforts and show the effectiveness of the public-private partnership on which the KNHP is based.

There are 19 Heritage Site partners, and See said 17 of those sites have signed agreements to continue in the Heritage Site program.

Heritage Sites are non-profit or for-profit entities, which are involved with telling the story of the copper-mining era, although they may not be specifically about copper mining.

See said the most recent Heritage Site was added five years ago, and applications for possible new Heritage Sites will be accepted soon.

“The Heritage Sites are a key part of our overall visitor experience,” he said.

Interested entities will have 60 days to apply, then there will be a 90 day assessment period. It’s expected any new sites accepted into the program will be announced in the autumn.

See said he’s been working with the NPS to develop design concepts for more signage around the park venues.

“The signs we added a few years ago were a huge improvement over what we had,” he said.

See said although Congress has suspended its contribution to the 2013 Heritage Grant program, the AC does still have $100,000 budgeted for the program.

“Essentially, the program stays,” he said. “We just don’t have as much money to give out.”

More than $311,000 in funding requests have come from 28 applicants for the Heritage Grant program, See said.

“Once again, the community has demonstrated needs far in excess of our capabilities,” he said.

It’s expected grant recipients will be announced in early May, See said.

Because of the uncertainty of continued federal funding, See said he’s also looking for other external funding sources for park projects.

“Our plan is to develop a package of materials that we could use with individual donors, granting agencies, and private foundations in an attempt to grow the overall funding for park purposes,” he said.