By Joe Beck
Shenandoah National Park's opening dates for campgrounds and other facilities will follow roughly the same schedule as 2013 when budget cuts from the federal government sequester delayed the opening of facilities from one to four weeks.
National Park Service officials Monday posted the 2014 facilities schedule on the park web site at www.nps.gov/shen after finalizing the schedule last week.
Park spokeswoman Karen Beck-Herzog said some facilities will open a bit earlier or later than 2013,but the overall schedule appears similar to last year.
"For the most part, it's pretty much mirroring last year," Beck-Herzog said of the 2014 schedule.
Big Meadows Campground, a popular destination for spring campers, will be opening April 25 on a first come, first served basis until May 5 when online reservations can be made at www.recreation.com. Reservations will be available at least until Aug. 31 and may be extended into September.
The Matthews Arms and Loft Mountain campgrounds will open May 21, first come, first served, with online reservations available May 23 through Aug. 31 with extended reservation dates possible. The Lewis Mountain Campground will open May 2 and take campers on a first come, first served basis throughout the season.
Members of Virginia's congressional delegation said the amount of money available to the park in 2014 remains uncertain while appropriations committees in the House of Representatives and Senate draw up spending bills for this fiscal year.
Congress averted another government shutdown like the one that closed the park in the fall when members approved a budget last month, but the details of how the money will be spent remains up to the appropriations committees.
"By addressing this closer to the beginning of the year, I am hopeful that federal agencies, including the National Park Service, will have the opportunity to make planning decisions further in advance," Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke, stated in a written statement.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, called Shenandoah National Park "a world-class destination" and "a real economic driver for the commonwealth."
"Delays in opening facilities in Shenandoah National Park are just one example of how damaging mandatory across-the-board sequester cuts are to Virginia," Warner said in an email message, adding, that he is committed to replacing sequestration with a "broad, bipartisan agreement that includes both tax and entitlement reforms, as well as smarter spending cuts."
Warner's fellow Democrat, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, said in a written comment that Shenandoah National Park deserves strong support for its environmental benefits and favorable economic impact on the region.
"Now that Congress has reached a budget compromise and partially reduced sequester cuts, I will fight for more robust federal support for our most treasured national resources," Kaine said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org