The National Park Service, faced with reduced Federal budget cuts each year, now may be able to charge admission to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and a number of other locations around the country under a bill now in Congress. Russell Berry, superintendent at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, said Park Service officials in Washington are considering a number of options for replacing money cut from the Park Service budget.
Currently a donation box in front of the lighthouse steps is the only appeal for funds at the Hatteras Lighthouse. Climbing the impressive tower has always been free in the past . . . the money tourists place in the box is used to maintain the lighthouse complex and does not go into the general fund. In the past, park officials have said that if they charged admission at Cape Hatteras, the money could not be used on site, but would go into the general park budget and be of little or no help to the lighthouse complex. Moneys from the general National Park Service fund funnel into a coffer in Washington, DC and from there to parts unknown.
There are reports that when the Park Service purchased the light station land, it was written into the terms of the sale that no admission would be charged; this would be something that perhaps would be altered by the Congressional fee law -if it is passed. The option to raise needed maintenance funds is privatization. Can Americans trust what developers and their lawyers would do with National Park lands?
Yet it's sad that a Park Service that has done so much in the past to bring historic and scenic treasures to public access now must make such compromises. It would be even worse if money collected at Hatteras were spent on other parks much less in need (or pet projects of other Congress members) than Hatteras itself. Saving the lighthouse for future generations MUST be the first priority.
We should remember that it's not been the Park Service that has caused the current budget crisis in Washington. The cost of one jet fighter for the Air Force would solve the budget cuts in the Park Service this year. But Hatteras Lighthouse has no highly paid lobbyist in DC. How many letters from citizens will it take to equal in impression a fine extensive lunch for a congressman in a trendy DC restaurant?
This story appeared in the
November 1995 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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