WASHINGTON (AP) — Human feces, overflowing garbage, illegal off-roading and other damaging behavior in fragile areas were starting to overwhelm probably the West’s iconic national parks on Monday, as a fractional government shutdown left the zones open to guests yet with little staff on duty.
“It’s a free-for-all,” Dakota Snider, 24, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley, said by telephone Monday, as Yosemite National Park authorities declared closings of some negligibly directed campgrounds and open zones within the park that are overwhelmed.
“It’s so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I’ve seen in my four years living here,” Snider said.
The tenth day of the partial federal government shutdown, which has forced furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal government employees, has left numerous parks without the greater part of the rangers and other people who staff campgrounds and otherwise keep parks running.
In contrast to shutdowns in some past administrations, the Trump administration was leaving parks open to guests despite the staff furloughs, said John Garder, senior budget director of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association.
“We’re afraid that we’re going to start seeing significant damage to the natural resources in parks and potentially to historic and other cultural artifacts,” Garder said. “We’re concerned there’ll be impacts to visitors’ safety.”
“It’s really a nightmare scenario,” Garder said.
Under the park service’s shutdown plan, authorities need to close any area where garbage or different issues become threats to health and safety or to wildlife, spokesman Jeremy Barnum said in an email Monday.
“At the superintendent’s discretion, parks may close grounds/areas with sensitive natural, cultural, historic, or archaeological resources vulnerable to destruction, looting, or other damage that cannot be adequately protected by the excepted law enforcement staff that remain on duty,” Barnum said.
Campers at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California’s deserts were announcing squabbles as different families laid claims to sites, without any rangers on hand to adjudicate, said Ethan Feltges, who operates the Coyote Corner gift shop outside Joshua Tree.
Feltges and other business around Joshua Tree had stepped into the gap as much as possible, hauling trailers into the park to empty overflowing trash bins and sweeping and stocking restrooms that were still open, Feltges said.
Feltges himself had set up a portable toilet at his store to help the guests to at present streaming in and out of the park. He was spending his days standing outside his store, offering tips about the park in place of the rangers who normally would be available.
“The whole community has come together,” Feltges said, also by phone. “Everyone loves the park. And there’s a lot of businesses that actually need the park.”
A few guests have strung Christmas lights in the twisting Joshua trees, a large number of which are hundreds of years old, the Los Angeles Times detailed.
Most guests were being respectful of the desert wilderness and park facilities, Joshua Tree’s superintendent, David Smith, said in a statement.
In any case, some are seizing on the lack of park staff members to roff-road illegally and otherwise damage the park, and in addition relieving themselves in the open, a park statement said. Joshua Tree said it would start closing a few campgrounds for all but day use.