‘Heartbreaking.’ Government Shutdown Causing Garbage and Human Waste to Pile Up at National Parks

January 2, 2019, 4:27 PM UTC

Some national parks have taken a hit amid the U.S. government shutdown: They’ve remained open, though severely understaffed, leading to public health concerns like overflowing toilets.

At California’s Yosemite National Park, for example, trash and human waste are piling up, as restrooms are overused with few employees to maintain them.

“It’s so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I’ve seen in my four years living here,” Dakota Snider, who works at Yosemite, told the Associated Press.

Joshua Tree park will close down its campgrounds at noon on Wednesday due to health and safety concerns, according to CNN.

“The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity,” the park service said. “In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off-road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem.”

In Utah, only one park remains open. The state was initially paying to keep operations running at all five of its national parks, but only Zion remains open due to snowfall and a lack of funds for plowing.

While there are few employees at the parks to enforce regulations, admissions have also surged because no one is collecting admission fees, the Huffington Post reported. But the National Park Service issued a warning to visitors that staff will not be available to provide guidance or in case of emergency.

“Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk,” the park service said.

The partial shutdown of the federal government—now on its 12th day—started on December 22 after Trump refused to back down from his demands for Congress to green-light $5 billion for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Unlike previous shutdowns, when parks were also closed, national parks remained open this time, though most park employees have been on furlough.