The recent government shutdown in the United States left many of the country’s national parks as a kind of no-man’s land. As a result, many of those parks have suffered some fairly significant damage. Perhaps no park in the country was hit harder by the shutdown than Joshua Tree National Park in California. In fact, experts say that much of the damage incurred by the park could take up to 300 years to fix.
Within just a few days of the park “officially” opening back up, rangers found that there had been hundreds of illegal campfires started throughout the park. If that wasn’t bad enough, the officials also discovered that roughly 20 miles of new and unauthorized off-road trails had been cut through the park by vehicles. That’s just some of the issues that they didn’t know about during the shutdown. They knew when the park reopened that they’d have to deal with piles of trash throughout the grounds. The situation was referred to many times as “the wild west.”
Many concerned parkgoers began posting videos after the shutdown began of the park restrooms. They were overflowing with human waste and garbage. Reports began to flood in of people spraying rocks with graffiti, throwing the honor system out the door when it came to entrance fees, illegally camping, and worst of all, actually cutting down some of the beautiful Joshua trees for which the park gets its name. As a result, the campground area of the park was closed during the shutdown, but the rest of the park was still basically free reign.
On the day following the reopening of the government, people began protesting outside of Joshua Tree to convey their disgust over the damage that had been done. One former superintendent of the park said that much of the damage done to the park could take centuries to fix.
Many fear that some of the damage might be permanent. The worst of the damage was where people had actually cut down some of the beloved Joshua trees, all so they could illegally off-road on new trails.
Many estimates put the damage and financial losses incurred by the park during the shutdown at $1 million dollars or more.
While things are starting to get back on track, Trump has already hinted that another shutdown could be on the horizon later this month.