Government Shutdown Has Left National Parks Overrun With Garbage And Poop

Christopher Davidson
January 3, 2019

Visitors are streaming into the parks to take advantage of the free admission (after all, the visitors' centers are closed and there's no one around to collect entrance fees) and trashing the place once they're in there.

Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association, said the shutdown not only hurts the parks but also surrounding communities that rely on an estimated $18 million a day from tourism. "It's really a nightmare scenario".

Unfortunately, Park officials have announced that the following facilities and areas inside Yosemite National Park are closed "due to impacts from human waste and public safety concerns" - Wawona Campground, Hodgdon Meadow Campground, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Crane Flat Snow Play Area, and Goat Meadow Snow Play Area, located just outside the South Entrance of Yosemite National Park.

Officials at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado said they were closing restrooms and locking up trash bins in many locations.

In other parks, though, there doesn't seem to be such an organized group of helpers, and it sounds like visitors are treating national parks like their own personal Lord of the Flies-style anything-goes free-for-all.

"Everyone loves the park". The Washington Post notes that the Trump administration initially kept most of the parks open with skeleton crews to enforce some of the rules. It is unclear how long the shutdown will last and whether the National Park Service will opt to close some or all of the parks if the situation continues.

The shutdown, now in its second week, has forced thousands of federal government employees out of work.

Reynolds said one thing in particular that people who walk along the trails and beaches should be mindful of is taking pet waste along with them after heading out of the park.

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Park Superintendent David Smith thanked volunteers who have helped maintain the park as best they could during the shutdown.

People who wanted to spend some of their winter vacation at Yosemite National Park were in a for a rude-and gross-awakening.

The park has experienced vandalism to buildings, while illegal camping and off-roading have damaged the park habitat, National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said. Indeed, Joshua Tree is reportedly closing all campsites starting today.

And at Yosemite, visitors were allowing their dogs to run off-leash and leaving bags of trash along the roads, Snider said.

"You're looking at Yosemite Falls and in front of you is plastic bottles and trash bags."

At some parks, private companies have jumped in to handle some the maintenance normally handled by federal employees. The contractors that operate park tours by snowmobile, buses and vans are grooming trails, hauling trash and replacing toilet paper at pit toilets and restrooms along their routes.

Some visitors have strung Christmas lights in the twisting Joshua trees, many of which are hundreds of years old.

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