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Watchdog faults Park Service over expensive weddings, yoga classes in parks

Watchdog faults Park Service over expensive weddings, yoga classes in parks
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The National Park Service (NPS) has been allowing nonprofits to offer weddings, yoga and other activities that are "outside the scope" of their agreements with the government, an internal watchdog has found. 

The NPS has partnered with nonprofit organizations to operate Residential Environmental Learning Centers (RELCs) to provide educational services to the public, according to an Interior Department inspector general's report dated last week

The report found that the NPS "did not ensure that all activities and services provided by the RELCs complied with agreements, statutes, and regulations."

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The report specifically found that two of the groups offered weddings and that one of the organizations charged between $13,000 to $18,000 for wedding services. 

Also offered by some of the groups were "a variety of art and yoga programs for women, including chef-crafted meals, ranging in cost from $250 to $365 per person," the report found. 

The report recommended a series of changes, including the development of a policy that specifically says which services and activities are allowed under agreements for the RELCs.  

The NPS said in a response to a draft report that it was "working to ensure that Residential Environment Learning Center agreements comply with statutes and regulations and with applicable policies."

It also agreed to implement the inspector general's recommended policy changes. 

A spokesperson for NatureBridge, one of the groups that the report said provided the weddings, told The Hill in an email that all of the money it raises is invested back into education programs. 

"All dollars raised by NatureBridge, including from generous donors and weddings, are invested in delivering transformational environmental education programs in national parks to America’s youth," the spokesperson said.

"NatureBridge is responsible for the maintenance of NPS facilities from which it operates, thereby decreasing the maintenance backlog for the National Park Service."