Joshua Tree will temporarily close to address shutdown damage
California’s Joshua Tree National Park will completely shutter Thursday so that officials can address damage wrought during the ongoing government shutdown.
The 790,636-acre park between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree in southern California has felt the effects of the government shutdown that started Dec. 22, which left the park unattended because workers could not work.
The park is experiencing overflowing trash cans, clogged toilets, and destruction of habitat. While the shutdown furloughed park rangers and suspended basic amenities such as trash collection and road clearing, the Trump administration opted to leave gates open so that the public could continue to visit.
The National Park Service (NPS) announced in a press release Tuesday that the park will temporarily close beginning Thursday in order to “to allow park staff to address sanitation, safety, and resource protection issues in the park that have arisen during the lapse in appropriations.”
Officials say the park will be reopened “in the coming days.”
Government employees will pay for the maintenance needs by pulling from funds collected through park entrance fees. While maintenance workers will be paid through those coffers, other essential NPS staff–such as law enforcement officers–will still not be paid, due to the shutdown.
“While the vast majority of those who visit Joshua Tree National Park do so in a responsible manner, there have been incidents of new roads being created by motorists and the destruction of Joshua trees in recent days that have precipitated the closure,” the press release read.
“Law enforcement rangers will continue to patrol the park and enforce the closure until park staff complete the necessary cleanup and park protection measures.”
Park officials at Joshua Tree announced last week that they would be shuttering parts of the park, including campgrounds, due to misuse. Some campgrounds were left open during the day, and then shuttered at sunset.
“The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity,” NPS wrote in a statement at the time. “In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem.”
NPS also announced Tuesday it will be closing San Diego’s Cabrillo National Monument and the sea cave within it “for the safety of visitors and park resources.”
Officials announced in December that they would be raising the entrance fees to the monument for the second time in two years, increasing fees to $20 per vehicle. The 2019 entrance fee to Joshua Tree is $30 per vehicle, while previously the cost of entry was $25.
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