Some National Parks are being overwhelmed by trash, vandalism, human feces and destructive off-roading while most personnel are gone during the government shutdown, according to reports from remaining workers and visitors.
“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,” Dakota Snider, 24, who works in California’s Yosemite National Park, told The Associated Press. “It’s a free-for-all.”
Some visitors were seen dumping bags of garbage from their cars at Yosemite. Two campgrounds and a redwood grove were closed because of “human waste issues and lack of staffing,” a park statement said. People were using the spots as open-air bathrooms after overused restrooms were closed, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“With restrooms closed, some visitors are opting to deposit their waste in natural areas adjacent to high traffic areas, which creates a health hazard for other visitors,” National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz told the Times.
The Trump administration initially kept most of the parks open, but there are only skeleton staffs during the shutdown to make certain visitors follow the rules from no littering to no hunting. At the same time, the number of visitors surged because there’s no one to collect admission fees.
Now areas and entire parks are being closed because of garbage, human waste — and snow. Arches and Canyonlands in Utah and other areas have been closed because there’s no money for plowing. Utah had been paying to staff up all five of its national parks but will continue to staff only Zion in the new year, AP reported.
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado has locked its restrooms and trash bins “due to human waste issues, wildlife concerns and overall public health,” a notice on the park website said. Officials also closed the main roadways, which are covered with snow.
A National Park Service notice posted at the top of each park’s website now warns that even updates won’t be available because of lack of staffing.
John Garder, senior budget director of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, called the situation a “nightmare scenario” that could impact visitor safety — and significantly damage natural resources.
At Joshua Tree in Southern California local residents and business people were stepping up to do what they could to keep restrooms clean and functioning, and hauling out trash, AP reported. Private park tour companies were doing similar work in Yellowstone.
New York state is continuing to fund operations at the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island, both federal sites, The Wall Street Journal reported.