Is the National Park Service spreading itself too thin? The park service’s budget has been flat or declining for years, and this year’s sequester has bit even deeper into the budget. At the same time, the agency keeps adding new units to the system. These units all incur significant start-up costs and ongoing staffing and maintenance expenses. How can the system keep operating with any degree of effectiveness if it keeps growing without the funds to pay for that growth?
The National Park Service, along with the rest of the federal government, is back up and running. In celebration, I’d like to talk about something very dear to the park service. It isn’t a monument or a museum or a fixed natural feature. Rather, it’s a logo—specifically the arrowhead badge of the National Park Service. This logo, the key component of the National Park Service’s visual identity, is a classic design. Apart from a small tweak in 2001, it hasn’t changed in more than 60 years. How many entities, private or public, can say that about their corporate identity?
There are all sorts of factors that have helped make the park service successful over the years. But the agency’s familiar green-and-gray uniform and the famous flat hat definitely have something to do with it. Here’s why.
One week ago I put up a post covering the impact of the federal government shutdown on the national parks. One week on, little has changed.
Yesterday on NPR’s All Things Considered there was an interesting piece about how the town of Gettysburg is coping with the shutdown-induced closure of the National Military Park. A key issue for debate is whether park service authorities should allow visitors to walk around the battlefield itself, even though there are no park rangers on duty to guide them around or protect them.
Yesterday I started talking about how the United States essentially pioneered the whole idea of the national parks, and how paradoxical it seems that this very communitarian idea has worked so well in this typically laissez-faire country. I thought I’d continue in that vein today.
With the current federal government shutdown the National Park Service is suddenly all over the news. As was the case during the last shutdown in 1995, the shuttering of America’s national parks has become a particularly painful public symbol of federal dysfunction.