National Arboretum a victim of sequestration

Starting next week, sequestration is forcing the U.S. National Arboretum to close its doors several days a week.

The Northeast Washington institution cites the 7.8 percent across-the-board budget cut as the driving force behind the decision to close the 400-plus acre park to the public on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. They chose those days because attendance numbers showed the least amount of visitors.

On the days the arboretum is opened, park officials said entrance will remain free.

"We need to make some unfortunate and important changes in how we operate," says Colien Hefferan, director.

Leslie Ariail, who was visiting the gardens with her gardening club from Alexandria, says it's a shame, but understands the needed cuts and thinks it's a good balance.

The park is losing about $900,000 from their budget, Hefferan says.

In addition to reducing the amount of days the park will open, Hefferan says, she will no longer fill positions at their visiting center and research group.

"It's very difficult when you're doing things that you think are important to decide how you can have the maximum cost savings with the minimum impact on the public," Hefferan says.

She estimates the Arboretum gets half a million visitors a year. However,
Ariail doesn't think the cuts will keep people from visiting.

"Most people, you know with families and kids, unless they really live around here, they can't come except on the weekend anyway," she says.

The park will also start charging private groups who want to use parts of the property for events.