Garbage, feces take toll on national parks amid shutdown

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Garbage, feces take toll on national parks amid shutdown

Campgrounds at Joshua Tree National Park are set to close at noon Wednesday, park officials said, citing health and safety concerns over the park's vault toilets, which are near capacity.

Authorities in Yosemite National Park have also closed several heavily-used campgrounds, including some in Hetch Hetchy and Mariposa Grove, that have become trashed and now have overflowing toilets. Yosemite Valley's lodgings, restaurants, ski area at Badger Pass and the park shuttle remain open.

Escalating problems have prompted some parks, like Yosemite, to partially or fully close.

Already, services are limited due to the lapse in federal appropriations caused by the government shutdown.

"It's impacted (our lives) for fun, but it's impacted people's livelihoods and people's jobs, and it's disappointing because, you know, is a wall really that important?" visiting Texan Lori Neblett said, referring to President Donald Trump's unwillingness to back off a demand for $5 billion for his long-promised border wall. While many of these national parks are still allowing visitors access, they are largely unstaffed - gates into the parks have typically been left wide open, allowing visitors to drive in without paying the typical $30 entrance fee.

And Joshua Tree isn't alone in its issues, or its decision to close campgrounds. Also, the main road in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks is blocked because of the waste of crowded containers is a threat to the animals and the traffic was building up on the icy roadway.

All Smithsonian Institution properties are closed
All Smithsonian Institution properties are closed Credit Getty

Officials have suggested that visitors use restrooms in surrounding communities before entering national parks.

In Joshua Tree, dozens of volunteers have come together to try to maintain the park. "And there's a lot of businesses that actually need the park".

"Everyone loves the park".

During the last partial government shutdown in January 2018, there was also chaos and controversy.

Garder said NPCA is monitoring the situation and seeing trends that visitors in the parks are disregarding rules about keeping dogs on leashes, prohibitions on drones, and restrictions on where to camp, all of which can harm or disrupt the natural environment or wildlife in the area.

"You're looking at Yosemite Falls and in front of you is plastic bottles and trash bags."
With Congress at an impasse, about a quarter of the federal government employees - including park rangers - are starting 2019 out of work or working without a paycheck. 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. "Keys View Road is also closed, effective immediately", park officials said in a statement. Those guides are splitting the cost of grooming the trails used by their vehicles to keep their operations going, said Travis Watt, general manager of See Yellowstone Alpen Guides based in West Yellowstone, Montana. "But we can handle it".

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