Tikal National Park was created May 26, 1955, by a government accord issued by the Presidency. In 1957 the government issued the regulations that determined how the park should function. A government accord also demarcated the park's boundaries and the total area, although it did not give geographic reference points (PRG, 1957). In 1979 it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (UNESCO, 1979) through the Convention to Protect the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage. In 1990, the government also created the Maya Biosphere Reserve, whereby the area was included within the core zone (Decree 5-90).
On September 2, 1957, when the administrative regulations were published, the Institute of Anthropology and History (IDAEH) was named park administrator (PRG,1957). In 1970, Accord 1210-70 declared Tikal an archaeological monument and ratified IDAEH as the project administrator. The park's administration was run exclusively by IDAEH until 1989, when the government passed the Law of Protected Areas, which established CONAP as the entity in charge of managing all the protected areas in Guatemala. Today, the law states that both institutions jointly administer Tikal, although in practice, IDAEH is in charge of management.
Tikal National Park is one of the best-staffed protected areas in Guatemala. It has a staff of 135 employees: 56 are park guards and 79 handle administrative and technical matters, both archaeological and biological. Of the 56 park guards, 39 run constant patrols day and night, while the others guard the museums, man the control posts and take turns covering other workers during vacations. In addition, the park also temporarily hires people from nearby communities to prevent forest fires, clear trails and do other maintenance work. All personnel work for the Institute of Anthropology and History (IDAEH). The park also features a squad of 75 guards manned by the Tourist Police Force who are split into two groups and take turns once a month. The squad is funded by the Government Ministry and is in charge of crime control and prevention within the park.
The administrative structure of the national park is complex. There are two directors: one technical and the other administrative. The former is in charge of the following technical units: Archaeology, Architecture, and Biology. These units are in charge of restoration work and maintenance of archaeological monuments, as well as monitoring and biological studies. The units in charge of the biological research are still new and less developed than those in charge of the park's cultural heritage. The administrative director is in charge of control and maintenance of the "urban" area of the park, as well as the department of human relations established in the tourism area. Both directors have the same status and are supervised by the Department of Cultural and Natural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
The area has a Master Plan that dates back to 1972, which is now obsolete and out of touch with today's reality and problems in the area. Work on a new Master Plan is currently underway and is to come into effect in 2003. The 1972 plan formed the groundwork for tourist development and archaeological restoration in the area. Many of the plan's recommendations went unheeded, which meant that problems that could have been avoided at the time have since worsened, especially on the park's borders, as farming spread. The plan established the creation of a buffer zone stretching for several kilometers around the park that would have prevented many of the problems that the area faces today. Today, the area has been zoned, but this exists in name only, and is based on the physical location of the best-preserved archaeological areas. Zoning divided the national park into a nucleus area and an area on the outskirts. The nucleus area is the central section of the national park where the archaeological, tourist and administrative areas are located, while the outskirts are home to the rest of the protected area.
The infrastructure that protects the area is very complete, especially in the central section, featuring a series of complexes for administration, workers, control posts, area for technical personnel, storerooms and buildings for security. In addition, the national park includes complete infrastructure for tourism, including two hotels, four restaurants, two museums, a campsite, bathrooms in several areas (even inside the archaeological area), guide and interpreter services. Camp personnel have been issued equipment for their tasks, including vehicles for patrolling the park, and camp and radio gear (although this is limited to the administrative offices). The park guards are authorized to carry guns, which lends them greater authority in the face of poachers, compared with other protected areas.
There are no figures for the park's budget. Despite the fact that such information is allegedly public, both park directors and officials at the Ministry of Culture claim that they are unaware of the figures. This data is difficult to find even within the ministry's budgets because the monies are registered by category and are not broken down into specific figures for each protected area. Based on interviews with current administrators and previous park directors, as well as personnel, and bearing in mind the number of personnel hired, services provided by the park for tourists and its infrastructure, the 2002 budget must run to at least US $600.000 (The lowest possible calculation is 4,800,000 quetzals, of which approximately 80% would cover personnel expenses. The dollar figure is approximate and is based on an exchange rate of Q.7.70 to US $1.). The entire budget comes from the park's entry fees.