Friday, 22 March, 2019

Overflowing toilets force closure at Joshua Tree Park

Human waste, rubbish overwhelm some US national parks in shutdown Overflowing garbage, feces on roads prompt Yosemite National Park officials to close some campgrounds
Doris Mccormick | 03 January, 2019, 06:27

But for many national parks, the outcome of this shutdown could turn ugly as this spit-spat drags on - especially if the White House and the newly elected Congress, now with a Democratic-majority House, continue to dig in their heels.

Forget sunsets and mindblowing landscapes, the usual sights of the US's most iconic national parks have been overshadowed with reports of human poop and piles of trash as the federal government's shutdown rolls into the new year. 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.

Joshua Tree, which covers more than 792,000 acres of national park from Palm Springs north to the town of Joshua Tree, will remain open during the shutdown. However, the number of visitors has swelled, "no one is at the gate", and "no one is collecting a fee".

Trash collection has also been temporarily nixed - even though the park itself remains open. Less civic-minded folks are illegally off-roading, tromping though delicate natural areas that are off-limits, and leaving behind mountains of garbage that can endanger wildlife.

On the 10th day of the partial federal government shutdown many parks were without most of the rangers and others who staff campgrounds and otherwise keep facilities running.

Staff shortages have created a sense of "lawlessness" in the parks, Brengel said.

"It's a free-for-all", Dakota Snider, 24, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley, said by telephone Monday, as Yosemite National Park officials announced closings of some minimally supervised campgrounds and public areas within the park that are overwhelmed.

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If you feel the need to visit a park during the shutdown, there are responsible ways to do so.

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

At the Washington Monument, there are overflowing garbage cans the National Parks Service cannot empty. "Everyone loves the Park".

The superintendent at Joshua Tree, David Smith, thanked the volunteers on Monday but said they have to close some of the campgrounds because the toilets, which don't have plumbing or a septic system, are too full. Farther south in California, conditions at Joshua Tree National Park and its delicate desert ecosystems are described as "deteriorating".

Officials say vault toilets on the site are reaching capacity.

Officials have suggested that visitors use restrooms in surrounding communities before entering national parks. Purdy and her husband run a rock climbing guide service that's totally dependent on the park remaining open.

Other parks were also seeing the effects of mounting garbage.

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