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Hawaii national parks bracing for potential cuts

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Feb 21 2013 05:10:00 PM HST

National Parks across the country are bracing for the worst if congress doesn't solve the sequestration cuts that are looming.

HONOLULU -

Five thousand people are drawn to this historic park everyday.  Many consider the Arizona Memorial a must-see in Hawaii.  Staffers give tours every 15 minutes.

A five percent budget cut could change that. Contingency plans include freezing permanent and seasonal staff.

"If this does take place there is a possibility it may be that tours to the Arizona Memorial may be limited," said National Park spokeswoman Eileen Martinez.

That doesn't sit well with veterans.

"I made a six hour flight to come here," said Liam O’Conner.

“It's a wonderful experience. For those of us who have been in the military it gets you in the heart."

Garr Gast is a huge historic park fan and echoed the sentiment:

"It would be sad. It’s something that I think that everyone should be able to see those places where men fought and died to make our country free," said Gast, who flew here from New York.

Curtailing hours could have a ripple effect on small businesses.

The National Park Service says there are more than a hundred private tour operators who bring visitors to this center every day.

A watchdog group for the National Park Service cautions that the cuts could translate to a loss of $110 million that could touch every single park across the country.

In some areas, where health and safety may be compromised access  to certain areas could be shut off.   

Planning documents indicate that at Kaloko Honokohau National Park on the Big Island a freeze on seasonal hiring would affect key fencing maintenance which could block access to trails that effect 500 visitors a day.

There could also be similar impacts to other popular neighbor island attractions  like Volcanoes National Park, and at Haleakala on Maui.

But until Congress acts, the contingency plans for all the parks are just that-- a big "what if."

 "We will make any information available as soon as we have it," said Martinez.

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