Teetertottering at Gettysburg battlefield

Would you believe it? "Budget shortfalls have put needed repairs at the Gettysburg National Military Park on hold. The tally for unfunded maintenance needs: $49 million."

What kind of maintenance are we talking about, you ask: " The 1820s Patterson House on the Gettysburg battlefield is in danger of collapsing. A barn that served as a Civil War battlefield hospital is crumbling. Cannon carriages are rusting in a barn, and bronze swords are missing from historic monuments."

Serious stuff. And at what point would one raise the mismanagement flag? At $50 million in unfunded maintenance needs? "The park is only receiving 53 cents for every dollar it needs to meet its normal expenditures," said Joy Oakes, director of the National Parks Conservation Association. "

Meanwhile, a superfluous vistor's center (new, improved) with a new museum is the subject of a $95 million fundraising effort by "friends" of the park.

The news reporter who developed this sad story had the presence of mind to ask about priorities. He got a nice piece of officialese in response: " "Visitation figures indicate impact upon the park, but the primary factor is the condition of the resource," someone said.

That means " … deciding on where to spend money is often a balancing act between providing visitor services and preserving resources."

Balancing act is not a good metaphor. Balancing acts kill incompetent acrobats. This is a balancing act of seesaw quality, in one seat the woeful federal park bureau which cannot even paint a barn without private volunteers; in the other seat, a private group with an agenda to attract more park visitors and shake them down for their 53 cents per dollar of operating costs.

That's quite a business plan. Here's the story.

Postscript: this post elicited some counterpoints. Read them here.