Utah photog seeks to snap National Park budget cuts

Grand Teton National Park, as captured by Chris Mabey. He plans to spend the summer focusing his lens on the maintenance backlog at national parks in the West.

PROVO – If a picture is worth a thousand words, photographer Chris Mabey is hoping a whole portfolio can help change the fate of a struggling national park system.

Mabey, an engineering student at Brigham Young University, is raising money through Kickstarter.com for a road trip to photograph both the best scenery and the worst effects of federal budget cuts in national parks in the West.

The park system has lost 15 percent of its funding in the past 10 years, said Mabey, whose research has turned up and documented no shortage of trails, roads and buildings in disrepair.

“They’re saying, ‘Yeah, we’re right in the thick of this, trying to figure out how we’re going to fund everything.’ And there’s a lot of parks that are just in a situation where they’re trying to figure out how they can keep things open for visitors this summer,” he said.

Mabey and his wife received a National Parks Pass as a gift last year and used it to visit as many parks as they could. He said they were dismayed to see the condition of some facilities and hear about their maintenance backlogs and financial concerns. That’s how the idea for the project was born.

“It’s really kind of hurt me, because I feel like this is a really important asset of our country that we’re not giving the attention that it deserves,” he said. “And so, I really wanted to show people how the parks are being affected right now.”

If he is able to fund the project, Mabey said, he’ll spend the last half of May in Utah’s national parks, before moving north in June to Wyoming and Montana and then to Washington, Oregon and California. He plans to photograph at least 10 parks and is offering postcards and prints of their wildlife and scenery to the project donors.

The project is online at <a href=”http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/422234408/the-best-idea-we-ever-had” target=”parent”>kickstarter.com</a>. Information about the cuts to the park system is at <a href=”http://www.npca.org/protecting-our-parks/park-funding/keep-parks-open.html” target=”parent”>npca.org</a>.

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