Just before Christmas week, the U.S. government shut down as a result of a funding dispute between the Trump administration and Congress over the proposed Mexican border wall. The result is that many federal employees have been furloughed or asked to work without pay. One area of the government that is not working is the National Parks Department. That means that America’s national parks are left unsupervised for the most part. There are no rangers present to collect fees and there is no staff to clean restrooms or pickup up garbage.
It’s starting to take a toll on the parks.
People are loving the current free access to the parks, but with no one around to clean the bathrooms or empty trash cans, it’s starting to become a free-for-all. In many of the state parks, local residents have started volunteering and cleaning up the parks themselves. They all agree that their love for the parks is what motivates them, and they know that if they didn’t do it, the parks could be trashed beyond repair.
A few of the parks across the country have stayed open thanks to some independent and state funding. However, a majority of the parks have “closed,” which actually means they’re wide open to anyone who wants to enter. Many of these parks have signs posted at the entrances warning visitors to “use caution” when entering because there are no employees around to provide assistance. Flagpoles are bare and visitor centers remain locked up. Some parks have blocked roads to much of the federal lands.
For many citizens who truly care about the national parks, there is a collective fear that if the government remains shut down, irresponsible or uncaring visitors could do irreversible damage to the parks. In most cases, they’d rather see the parks closed up completely, with zero access to the public, than the free-for-all that we’re currently seeing.
For those that are opposed to Trump’s proposed border wall, the issue is doubly frustrating. Many just don’t believe that something as ridiculous as the “medieval” wall should carry so much weight that it could shut down such important historical sites as our national parks.