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Cutting back

Saratoga National Historical Park scaling back hours

Sequester causes reduced hours at some venues

Thursday, April 18, 2013
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Cutting back


The Saratoga Battlefield in Stillwater, from the visitor center overlook in this 2008 photo.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
The Saratoga Battlefield in Stillwater, from the visitor center overlook in this 2008 photo.

— The Saratoga National Historical Park will reduce hours at some venues, including closing the park’s popular tour road an hour early, because of federal budget sequestration cuts, park officials said Thursday.

The park, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, will also cut the number of days the Schuyler House on Route 4 in Schuylerville and the Saratoga Monument on Burgoyne Avenue in the village of Victory will be open.

When those two historic sites open Memorial Day weekend, they will only be open three days a week (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) rather than the usual five days a week, said park Superintendent Joseph Finan.

The Visitor Center in the main portion of the park on routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater will remain open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. The tour road, which reopened April 1 and includes stops that explain the Saratoga battles, will close at 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. Other roads in the park are open from sunrise to sunset.

“No permanent jobs will be lost,” Finan said Thursday. He did say four seasonal positions will not be filled because of the cuts.

The park, sometimes called the Saratoga Battlefield Park, is where the Battles of Saratoga were fought in the fall of 1777 during the Revolutionary War. The National Park Service also operates the Schuyler House and the Saratoga Monument, which was built to commemorate the American victory over the British in October 1777, a turning point in the Revolution.

Finan said the park had to prepare a sequestration plan based on a 5 percent reduction in its 2012-13 budget. This represented a $111,000 reduction in the park’s budget, half of which was already spent, as the federal fiscal year ends in September.

The sequester is a federal government process that automatically cuts the federal budget by a set amount across most departments and agencies. Congress included the sequestration in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Congress couldn’t agree on a budget by the Jan. 2 deadline set in the Budget Control Act but stopped the cuts from happening then by passing the American Taxpayer Relief Act on Jan. 2. This pushed the budget cuts back until March 1, but Congress still couldn’t agree how to reduce the deficit by March 1, so $85 billion in spending cuts went into effect, according to the federal government website USA.gov.

Gina Johnson, the park’s chief of interpretation, said volunteers will staff some of the park locations usually staffed by park personnel. For example, the Neilson House, which is a stop on the battlefield tour road, was usually staffed by a park ranger. This summer it will be staffed by volunteers.

“The average visitor won’t see much difference,” Johnson said about the park operations.

“We have a robust volunteer program,” Finan said about the park’s more than 600 volunteers. He said the volunteers often coordinate special programs and greet people at the Visitor Center.

Johnson said the 75th anniversary events to be held this year had been planned and funded prior to the sequestration and will proceed.

On June 1 the Sword Surrender site will be dedicated including a sculpture of the famous painting of British Gen. John Burgoyne surrendering his sword to American Gen. Horatio Gates. The Sword Surrender site is on Route 4 about a mile south of Schuylerville.

In September, the national park will host more than 300 Revolutionary War re-enactors for an anniversary encampment and tactical demonstration.

Finan said some maintenance projects have been deferred because of the sequestration but not all projects.

He said the Schuyler House and the Visitor Center will be painted this year because separate funding for the projects had been approved.

“We are hoping there will be minimal impact on the public. We will get it done any way we can,” Finan said about general park operations.

 
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