Increase the Pay Scale for Seasonal Employees
The Park System is heavily dependent on the labor of its seasonal staff. They accomplish 85% of the critical work done in Parks. The pay scale range for these vital people has not increased in over a decade relative to a climbing minimum wage. The seasonal starting wage for a new inexperienced young worker is now $13; the top wage for a veteran seasonal after many dedicated years of service is $14! Despite the Passport Fund having sufficient money to underwrite wage increases, permission has been denied by OPM to authorize competitive salaries.
The lack of meaningful (yet modest) monetary reward for those most deserving has driven many to seek employment elsewhere. The inability of the Park System to recruit talented young people not only compromises visitors’ experiences in their public facilities, but it diminishes the pool from which to draw permanent maintainers and future Park Supervisors. FCSP will continue to forcefully advocate for reasonable increases to the upper range in the seasonal pay scale.
Quickly Begin to Rebuild Permanent Staff Numbers
Before July 1, 2022, 45% of Parks’ full time field and home office staff will be eligible to retire. Today, a wholly inadequate 80 permanent staff populate the ranks. If all eligible to retire do so, approximately 45 permanent staff will remain to manage approximately 11 million visitors and 250,000 acres next summer.
Thirty-five years ago, when Parks’ visitation and acreage managed were half the levels of those in Yr 2021, staff numbered 185. In 1971, when the State Parks Division was established, over 225 Park workers served the public. Inexplicably, Parks’ fortunes fell for decades as almost every other Government entity flourished. When budget woes finally hit all Agencies, Parks took further but much more damaging cuts to personnel levels.
The Passport to the Parks Program was authorized by the Legislature in 2018 in large part to allow the Parks System to begin to rebuild staff numbers to more reasonably meet safety, maintenance and service needs. The Executive branch has, most unfortunately, created barriers to Passport autonomy. They have set an arbitrary ceiling of 84 permanent staff to mirror Parks’ numbers in Yr 2014 (when positions had already fallen by 100 from the late eighties.) This ceiling must be lifted with dispatch. Promising candidates need to be hired quickly to forestall the breakdown that will surely come should 45% suddenly retire and while Parks, at the least, still have the veteran skeleton staff to vet and train the new hires.