The US partial government shutdown enters it's third week this week, and as services remain halted at National Parks, some are having to shut down due to waste issues. The shutdown began on Dec 22nd, over the proposed plans (and payment for) a border wall between the US and Mexico. The shutdown has, unsurprisingly, caused issues across the country, and as it drags on, the situation continues to worsen.
The National Parks are one of the areas that have been hit by the shutdown. Unlike in some previous shutdowns, the parks have (for the most part) remained open thus far. However, with almost no staff, there is no one to enforce rules meant to protect the parks, to clear trash and pit toilets, or to collect admission. As a result, some parks are announcing campground closures for health and safety reasons this week.
Joshua Tree National Park (California) will close its popular campground on Wednesday of this week, due to near-full pit toilets (and no one to empty them). Joshua Tree itself will remain open, but the campgrounds themselves will be closed. The park service said:
The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity. In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off-road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem.
The overflowing toilets are not the only health and safety concern in the parks right now. With no staff, there is no one to provide assistance or emergency response to campers or hikers. Rattlesnake Canyon will also be closing in order to try and decrease the possibility of search & rescue situations developing, but the park service has made it clear that anyone entering the parks does so 'at their own risk'.
For some, the lack of staffing has meant something of a free-for-all attitude, with no one collecting admission fees or enforcing rules. This is also damaging to the parks themselves, as dogs are being brought in off-leash, and campers are approaching watering holes too early or late, and scaring away animals there. Of course, this is far from the worst impact of the government shutdown, which has left a huge number of workers without paychecks, as well as affecting services nationwide. However, the park closures don't just affect vacationers, but local towns that depend on tourist revenue at this time of year.