Security at the nation’s national parks and historic icons varies at each site with no national coordination in place to ensure visitor safety, according to a new report critical of the National Park Service. Though officials are unaware of any specific threats, there are concerns that some sites could be targeted by terrorists due to their symbolic nature. Threats could also change in February when visitors are first allowed to carry firearms into national parks, according to a Congressional summary of the report. (An earlier version of this sentence credited reference of the new firearms law to the GAO report, but it makes no explicit reference to the law.)
Despite improvements to its security plans since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the National Park Service still does not provide proper guidance on security planning or training at the 391 sites it operates, according to a Government Accountability Office report prepared at the request of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The report finds that the Park Service has also failed to assign trained security personnel at most parks and historic sites and has not developed a coordinated way for the sites to share information or best security practices.
As part of their investigation, government investigators sampled the security situation at New York’s Statue of Liberty National Monument and African Burial Ground National Monument, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park. Each site assessed potential security risks and acquired security equipment in different ways, usually in consultation with other government agencies or private organizations.