Government Shutdown Has Left National Parks Overrun With Garbage And Poop

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As Ralph Snake walked across Washington's National Mall on Wednesday, he stopped every few feet to pick up litter that has accumulated in the once-tidy expanse of grass since a budget showdown partially closed the federal government 12 days ago.

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.

Arches National Park officials said on December 22, the day the shutdown began, that some parts of the park would remain accessible; however, access may change without notice.

Joshua Tree National Park in the California desert also says it will be closing campgrounds.

Handwritten signs have also been posted asking visitors not to litter, as there are now no trash services.

With no sign of the government shutdown ending, American national parks are left severely understaffed and uncleaned. It is unclear how long the shutdown will last and whether the National Park Service will opt to close some or all of the parks if the situation continues.

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

Visitor services are limited due to the lapse in federal appropriations.

And press reports have suggested worsening conditions within many national parks are already underway.

"It's really a big deal for Joshua Tree", she said of the campground closings.

"To all the people who work for the park systems, just chill out and enjoy yourself for right now and it will be over with", said Shelton Corbin.

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.

Government shutdown contingency plans adopted by the National Park Service past year have allowed many national parks to remain accessible, but without staffing.

In the southern Sierra Nevada in Central California, some areas of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks were closed Monday evening.

That labor shortage means that public restrooms have been closed and garbage collection has been suspended in parks like Yosemite, where people have begun leaving mass amounts of garbage and human excrement out in the open. Children were sledding down hills and cross country skiers seemed to have the park all to themselves. "Without the usual winter minimal sanding done by park staff, the Grant Tree Trail had become slick, causing many visitors to fall and at least one injury", according to the Fresno Bee.

Other businesses along the Highway 120 Yosemite corridor are also helping out by offering their dumpsters to visitors to throw their garbage as they leave the area. Private park tour companies were doing similar work in Yellowstone.

"I guess we take it for granted nearly, these handsome places that we have and we never thought we'd have to prepare for it (the shutdown)", he said.