National Parks Suffer During Shutdown

One benefit of the government shutdown: Free access to most of the nation’s national parks. That’s a win for carloads of people who would have to pay an average of $30 per vehicle to gain access, but it’s created unseemly situations at many of the country’s most popular parks that are now overflowing with garbage along with toilets that are brimming with waste.

The holiday season is prime time for Joshua Tree National Park, but the Los Angeles Times is reporting that toilets are broken and trash is getting out of hand. Volunteers are trying to help out, but their efforts aren’t necessarily receiving a warm welcome.

Rand Abbott, a Joshua Tree rock-climber and volunteer, has been restocking toilet paper and handing out trash bags.

“I’ve gone through 500 rolls of toilet paper,” he told the Times. “And I’ve been emptying all the trash cans that are there and putting bags in. And then I’ve been giving out trash bags to people. I’ve probably put 60 hours in.”

Abbott has also worked to prevent illegal activity such as fires and littering but says that people have been rude and that his life has been threatened.

California’s popular Death Valley National Park has faced similar problems with visitors centers and fee collection services suspended as well as garbage collection and other maintenance services.

Happy to see that (seemingly) everyone kept on-trail and on-road even without official enforcement #DeathValley #shutdown

In Utah, home to the popular Zion National Park, the state has made efforts to pay to keep parks open and operational.

The New York Times reported that, on Friday evening, checks were delivered to Washington from the state government to pay for staffing and maintenance.

“We don’t like having to do it, and the federal government should be doing it,” Governor Gary R. Herbert of Utah told the Times in an interview on Monday. “We’re frustrated—we’re probably beyond frustrated, maybe even angry—but we’re prepared.”

Some National Parks did, in fact, close as a result of the shutdown. The Liberty Bell has been closed to visitors since the shutdown began on December 22, 2018, but thanks to funding secured by Visit Philadelphia, the site will be open to visitors on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Visit Philadelphia Inc. has signed an agreement with the National Park Service to provide the necessary funding to open Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, 12/28, Saturday, 12/29 and Sunday, 12/30. No tickets required.

Many other sites are not so lucky and those traveling to national parks for activities such as snowshoe tours or guided hikes may be disappointed. For travelers headed to any national park or monument, it’s a good idea to check before arrival and find out if there are any closures before making plans.

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