From park toilets to courts, USA shutdown jams up the works

Jan 05, 2019, 00:30
From park toilets to courts, USA shutdown jams up the works

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.

Let's be real: keeping a National Park and other public lands open and running smoothly is a logistical miracle.

The Smithsonian, the National Gallery and National Zoo are all closed because of the shutdown.

This time around, as President Donald Trump holds his finger on the pause button of government while he digs in to get funding for his vague border-wall scheme, many national parks are still technically open.

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.

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The situation has been improved somewhat by volunteers from Friends of Joshua Tree and local businesses, who have raised $5,000 to take out trash and clean toilets.

In most of the parks, services and facilities have been ceased, including their trash collection and restroom services.

The dozens of open-air national parks are remaining open during the government shutdown but with minimal staff to carry out basic operations, park rangers to provide safety information, and even limited emergency services like plowing roads and search and rescue in some cases.

There's been at least one reported incident of an injury in a national park during the shutdown.

"We're very concerned about the reports we're seeing of human waste in inappropriate places", said John Garder, senior director of budget and appropriations for the National Parks Conservation Association. Campsites have also closed at Joshua Tree National Park in California after portaloos filled up.

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The specific reason is pretty gross: Officials say vault toilets on the site are reaching capacity. "There are some areas where there was some trash and human waste, but nothing the current law enforcement personnel couldn't handle".

Officials say the closure is due to health and safety concerns. "The local community has come together really well, even people visiting from out of town have chose to join after seeing our efforts on social media".

And these are some of the busiest days of the year for national parks, as there was an estimated 284,398 visitors at Joshua Tree during the second half of December in 2017.

Rattlesnake Canyon will close to reduce the number of potential search-and-rescue events for rangers already spread thin because of the shutdown, the park service said. "Those memories aren't going to happen this year", Cashman said. Joshua Tree said it would begin closing some campgrounds for all but day use. On the hallowed ground, where the Army of the Potomac collided with the Army of Northern Virginia in the bloodiest day in American military history, the flagpole in front of the visitor center remains conspicuously bare.

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