Federal shutdown creates mountains of trash and human waste

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

As the federal funding “stalemate” turns into “stagnate,” national parks and other federal lands are left holding the bag. Here’s a synopsis from around the country:


Arizona: State government officials have pitched in nearly $64,000 to keep a few services operating for the first seven days of the shutdown. That meant the trash went out, bathrooms were cleaned, and some trails had snow cleared. Grand Canyon itself is open due to The Grand Canyon Protection Plan, enacted in 2018. The policy utilizes transferred state funds, meaning it can keep staff on hand.

In Florida, the South Florida National Parks Trust and the Florida National Parks Association have been working to working to improve conditions at Everglades, Big Cypress and Biscayne national parks during the partial shutdown. It’s the high season at Everglades but there are no park rangers and no one is taking admissions fees. But volunteers are advising people where to go, what to do, and keeping the bookstore and visitor’s center open while even emptying the trash and cleaning the restrooms.

Federal shutdown creates mountains of trash and human wasteOhio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park doesn’t have a benefactor. That meant trailside bathrooms were on lockdown, leaving visitors uncomfortable at best. “I was here yesterday and had to pee near a closed bathroom,” said Tom Nezovich, a retired federal employee from Parma. Nezovich made his comments to news5cleveland.com.


Things were far from clear at the great Smoky Mountains National Park. For the first days of the shutdown, “friends of the park” nonprofit Great Smoky Mountains Association donated funds to help keep three visitors centers open. That support meant trash removal, bathroom cleaning and staffing – but it ended on New Year’s Day. Their advice? Hit the bathroom before coming into the park. They also suggested Park Service employees will have a huge cleanup task ahead of them when the feds really do reopen.

Federal shutdown creates mountains of trash and human wasteOut West, Joshua Tree National Park in California had allowed camping to continue after the shutdown, but finally had to call a halt after pit toilets hit the overflow and scofflaws started tearing up critical habitat with off-road vehicles. “The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity. In addition, human waste in public areas, driving off road and other infractions that damage the resources are becoming a problem,” the NPS said on Monday in a brief statement.

Parts of Death Valley National Park closed Friday including The Furnace Creek and Texas Springs Campgrounds, along with access roads to Natural Bridge, Dantes View and Keane Wonder Mine. Visitor services remain limited, and there are health and safety concerns over human waste, trash, vandalism and resource damage.

Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has advised National Park visitors to “grab a trash bag and take some trash out” as garbage bins at parks overflow during the shutdown.

Similar issues are occurring at Yosemite National Park. But never fear, coffee lovers, the park’s Starbucks remains open.

Meanwhile, just to the south at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks the crowds and dirty conditions got so bad that rangers there barred the gates and are refusing to let anyone in unless they’re headed to one of the Christian camps at Hume Lake.

At Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, roads are now impassable due to snow. One guest described the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center area as “all yellow snow,” which she described as “pretty disgusting.”

MEANWHILE IN THE NATION’S CAPITAL
And while camping was not affected, the dirt and waste found its way to the doorstep of the origin of the shutdown, Washington, D.C. One media outlet put it this way: “As the government shutdown went into its 12th day on Wednesday, the nation’s capital was covered in trash. Due to the shutdown, open-air national landmarks such as the National Mall remain open but without services like bathroom access and trash cleanup. The Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo are closed.”

One wonders if bathrooms were locked and trash services were suspended at a couple other D.C. locations, say at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the stalemate might end sooner?

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Dennis

This is Trumps trash. He had two years with an all republican congress to get money for his idiotic wall. He waited till the blue wave changed everything to throw his fit and shut down the government. I admire the folks who are trying to help clean up the Trump trash, but it isn’t enough and it won’t last. Call or e-mail your representative. We need to put more pressure on the disgusting person in the white house.

Lee Ensminger

“Federal shutdown creates mountains of trash and human waste”

Russ, you know that just isn’t true. Federal employees and politicians did not go out into the parks and leave trash…and do other things… It’s our fine upstanding citizens who have done this. Now, I’m not going to take any sides, or discuss politics, but it’s really people with no common sense or decency who have created the mess in the parks.

Kamwick

I agree with readers here that it is both a people problem (for heavens sakes, pack out your own garbage!) and a government problem. I like the idea that when they shut down government, POTUS and congress should not be paid until it reopens. That said, BOTH houses came to agree on a bill that would have prevented a shut down. ONLY ONE party refused to sign because of what really appears to be an infantile ego trip.

We all know who owns this shutdown. Hopefully things will change sooner than later. This is not normal, or even sane.

Walt Sinkhorn

I am truly sorry there is a Government shutdown, however grateful that many of our Beautiful National Parks remain open, although without staff to maintain a smooth operation. That being said, it is the responsibility of the Citizen’s of our Country to pick up the slack and pick up their own trash!
If we are lucky enough to still be able to enter many of our Nations Parks, the very least we can do is clean up after ourselves. OK Slobs, This message is for you! I see these dirt bags wherever we travel.
My comment is “Throw the bums out!” What has happened to our Country? These idiots have NO respect…. That is not the way most of us were raised. If nobody can clean up their mess, then just LOCK the gates!

Jim

Some people live like hogs, they don’t clean up after themselves at home why would they do it some other place. The sad part is all these pigs are teaching their piglets to do the same. And then you have monkey see monkey due.
1. The ENTITLED, You owe me.
2. If “Ralph” does not have to clean up, WHY should I.
3. That’s what they get paid for.

Don

Wonder why in each of the government shutdowns in the last 50 years, Congress and the POTUS got payed on time? Maybe “We the People” should force an amendment that says that theirs is the first money to get stopped?

chris p hemstead

Great name for a band: Human Waste.

Jeff

It is amazing how little People these days care about the environment around them. They see the trash cans full and overflowing and yet they still throw their TRASH and other Waste on the ground.

Why don’t they just take it back home with them?

But, if you can figure out people these days, Let me know! Common Sense has left planet earth!

Mark

This is a people problem, not a shutdown problem. If people picked up after themselves and didn’t leave excrement and paper on the ground behind the closed toilets there would be no problem. This is created by inconsiderate people who expect others to clean up after they use these public places. All the garbage bags you show should have been packed out and disposed of properly by the people who thoughtlessly left them for others to pick up.