Photos Of Joshua Tree National Park During The Shutdown Show The Damage & Closures
National parks are staying open during the government shutdown — and in some cases at quite a cost. Reports from Joshua Tree National Park are some of the most dire, with guests camping illegally and even cutting down the Joshua trees from which the park gets its name. These photos of Joshua Tree National Park during the shutdown make it clear the danger the natural treasure is in without federal funding.
The worst of the news was first reported by National Parks Traveler on Tuesday. "Joshua trees were actually cut down in order to make new roads," Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent David Smith told the news outlet Tuesday. "We have two new roads that were created inside the park. We had destruction of government property with the cutting of chains and locks for people to access campgrounds. We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping. Every day use area was occupied every evening."
But other photos are almost equally dramatic, with some showing areas of the park closed to visitors and others showcasing the volunteers that are working to clean campgrounds and facilities to keep it presentable to guests.
The park was going to temporarily close so that it could be sufficiently cleaned up and repaired, but that was averted thanks to other funds. The park then reopened campgrounds that had been closed since Jan. 2 because the toilets were nearly full. These measures came too late, though, and these photos detail just some of the devastation.
1) Joshua Trees Were Actually Cut Down
Pictures captured by National Parks Traveler documented the destruction.
2) More Sensitive Areas Were Closed
Some of the closed areas were for safety of the visitors, while others were because facilities couldn't be maintained.
3) Roads Were Closed Off
Campgrounds in particular were affected because of at-capacity toilets, and this lock was to keep campers out.
4) Roads Are Shut — Really
Barricades kept cars from accessing where they shouldn't, but some vandals created their own paths through the park.
5) Closed Gates Mean Lost Money
This sign is at one of the park entrances, which is now closed all day. Park guests who enter here can avoid paying the fee to enter.
6) Limited Facilities Even For Water
This park guest is filling up a water bottle at the entrance, since many other places in the park are closed.
7) Volunteers Are Helping, Though
This sign was posted by one sharing ideas for how to keep the park clean and protected.
8) Rules Are Summarized, Even Though There's Little Enforcement
This sign was posted by National Park Service staff, summing up what guests should keep in mind during their visit.
9) Volunteers Are Doing Much Of The Cleaning
Before the park was shut down for repairs and serious cleaning, most of the maintenance was being done by volunteers.
10) Volunteers Check & Clean Bathrooms
Friends of Joshua Tree National Park have taken it upon themselves to fill in for paid NPS staff who are furloughed. The park put out a statement thanking volunteers:
The park expresses its appreciation for the contributions of local volunteers, who provided basic sanitation at campgrounds and other closed areas during the lapse in appropriations. Their efforts have contributed significantly to the reopening of campgrounds and restoring access to other closed areas of Joshua Tree National Park.
11) Picking Up Trash Makes A Big Difference
Despite the rule to carry out what you brought in, volunteers are picking up plenty of trash, too.
12) Vandalism Abounds
In addition to the cut down trees and new roads, graffiti has also been an issue.
13) Volunteers Are Coming From As Far As LA
That's a two-hour drive each way — just to clean — as this Muslim youth group did last week.
The park has now reopened its campgrounds and entrances, and areas previously closed off are now accessible. The park announced in a statement it would also bring back "additional staff to ensure the protection of park resources and mitigate some of the damage that has occurred during the lapse of appropriations."
The shutdown's main effect on Joshua Tree might be temporarily resolved, but some of the damage will be lasting. It's also not going to be collecting entrance or camping fees for the time being, making appropriated funds even more necessary.