At Joshua Tree in southern California, trash cans were spilling over and fights were breaking out among campers on the grounds, with no rangers on hand to adjudicate, according to Ethan Feltges, who runs the Coyote Corner gift shop outside the park. 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.
Grand Canyon National Park, for example, is open because after the last such federal shutdown the state of Arizona appropriated some revenues so that services such as shuttles and restrooms can remain open.
The Trump administration has permitted the parks to remain open despite the staff furloughs.
Visitors are streaming into the parks to take advantage of the free admission (after all, the visitors' centers are closed and there's no one around to collect entrance fees) and trashing the place once they're in there. 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.
Also closed was the Grant Tree Trail, a popular hiking spot, because the government shutdown halted maintenance and left the path dangerously slick from ice and snow, with at least one injury reported, the park service said.
Check out the photo of the garbage heap at the Washington Monument.
On Wednesday, Joshua Tree was forced to close due to toilets reaching capacity, human waste in public areas, people driving off-road and "other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem", the National Park Service said in a statement.
Staff shortages have created a sense of "lawlessness" in the parks, Brengel said. "A lot of these people are returnees and they're more than happy to give back to this park".
The partial government shutdown entered its 12th day Wednesday. "And there are many companies that are of the national Park". A number of those volunteers working to keep the parks clean and therefore open as long as possible not only care about the parks but depend on them for their livelihood.
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.
The park has experienced vandalism to buildings, while illegal camping and off-roading have damaged the park habitat, National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said. Garbage is overflowing in bins at Big Bend National Park in Texas, causing health hazards as well as attracting black bears.
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