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.
While Washington continues to butt heads over the funding for Trump’s border wall, the partial government shutdown has seen hundreds of thousands of federal government employees put on furlough, including rangers, cleaners, and other staff at many of the US national parks. The lack of staff is already taking its toll less than two weeks into the partial government shutdown, as reported by The Associated Press (AP).
In most of the parks, services and facilities have been ceased, including their trash collection and restroom services. Volunteers and "essential staff" are doing their best to keep the park services running along, but it’s led to filthy restroom facilities without toilet paper and tourists relieving themselves along the side of the road, reports the Los Angeles Times. There were also reports of visitors dumping garbage bags from their cars in Yosemite.
“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,” John Garder, senior budget director of the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, told AP. “We’re concerned there’ll be impacts to visitors’ safety.”
“It’s really a nightmare scenario,” added Garder.
Joshua Tree National Park was forced to shut on Wednesday due to health and safety concerns from their “overflowing toilets”, while parts of Yosemite National Park are closed to the public due to “human waste issues and lack of staffing”. A number of other parks in the Western US will also remain partially accessible with limited facilities.
In previous shutdowns, the national parks have simply shut their gates, however the parks have remained accessible to the public in the hopes of avoiding any damage to local businesses. It also doesn’t help that the trouble has arrived just in time for peak tourist season when many families are heading out to the national parks on holiday.
During the last partial government shutdown in January 2018, there was also chaos and controversy. A person illegally shot dead a pregnant elk at Zion National Park in Utah, which authorities say was a poacher taking advantage of the limited park security. People were also spotted driving snowmobiles dangerously close to the Old Faithful geyser at Yellowstone National Park.
Although the trash cans are overflowing and the restrooms are without toilet paper, it's hoped this shutdown will pass without any casualties.