Monument's budget up

Dinosaur's park administrator satisfied with resources

Bill Mitchem, 74, first set eyes on Echo Park 45 years ago.

He traveled from his home in Rangely through Utah on a 2-track road to arrive at what was then called Pat's Hole -- a place he said is as beautiful now as it was then.

Mitchem has seen visitation to Echo Park increase during the years, especially during the past two to three years, he said.

He's concerned, however, that Dinosaur National Monument's budget is not enough to keep up with services necessary for the growing numbers.

"(The budget) limits what they can do in terms of interpretation. It limits what they are able to do in terms of maintenance and improvements. They're pretty much strapped in terms of monies they have to work with," Mitchem said.

Christopher Moos, administrative officer for the monument has a different perspective.

"We're one of the lucky ones," Moos said.

He explained that unlike many of the nation's parks and monuments, Dinosaur's budget increased from $2.7 million last year to $2.8 million this year.

"I think that we're actually doing pretty good. I mean obviously like any business that you're trying to run, you look for ways to save the park and, ultimately, the taxpayers money ... We've really been fairly lucky," Moos said.

Last year, 350,000 visitors passed through the 240,000-acre Dinosaur National Monument, Moos said.

Though he said it's difficult to compare this year's numbers with last year's so early in the season, he said he expects similar if not slightly lower numbers this year.

The park employs a permanent staff of 35 and seasonal staff of 30 benefits from the volunteer hours of about 10 people, Moos said.

Three staff members are full- time law enforcement agents and three interpret the geology and natural history for visitors.

Mitchem thinks three interpreters are too few.

"You need for people to be available to greet and inform, and I don't think they do nearly enough of that. I think there ought to be someone out at Harper's Corner all the time, and there is seldom anyone there," Mitchem said.

There should also be a full-time interpreter at Echo Park, he said.

Moos said he's satisfied with the budget that Dinosaur has to work with.

When asked whether staff at Dinosaur had received the now-infamous memo from David Barna, the National Park Service's chief of communications, instructing supervisors to refer to budget cuts as "service level adjustments," Moos said that they learned of the memo as most people did -- through the media.

He said the park service is divided into five regions and that that particular memo was not sent to this region.

Whatever the official position on the budget, Mitchem said it would be nice if there were more funds for building and maintaining trails.

"The people they have do a good job. It's not a criticism of them; it's just not enough," Mitchem said.

Michelle Wallar can be reached at 824-7031.

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