Muslim youths clean up national parks trashed during government shutdown

Frederick Owens
January 10, 2019

These group of hikers met up Sunday morning to enjoy the outdoors and help clean up parts of Shenandoah National Park.

"What we've decided is that right now we're going to cap it at when we spend $5,000 on these toilets, we're going to re-evaluate because if we get to $5,000 that means that the shutdown has gone on for a very long time and we would need to have some contingency plans as will all other park partner groups", Susan Sherman, the executive director of the Shenandoah National Park Trust, said.

But though tragic on their own, the tally of deaths is not out of the ordinary for the expansive National Park Service, which sees an average of six deaths per week, Litterst said.

Having planned her Utah trip six months ago and finding so much redrock country closed when she and her husband arrived, she said she was angry about the shutdown.

The decision comes after reports of degradation in the parks - trash thrown on the ground, human waste piling up, and visitors behaving irresponsibly by letting their dogs off leash or even driving off-road to do donuts in the desert.

"We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash". The agency said previously that it would seek to keep parks "as accessible as possible" during the funding lapse.

"Instead of robbing from park funds, the President needs to work with Congress to fully reopen the federal government, including our national parks", Pierno's statement read.

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A Park Service official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, said that the Interior Department's solicitor had authorized the move in an opinion, but did not provide the document.

Heavy snow and the shutting of the park's restaurant, inn and other services led to the decision, park officials said.

"The directive provides for the use of recreation fee funds, where available, to clean up and maintain: restrooms and sanitation, trash collection, road maintenance - which includes plowing, campground operations, law enforcement and emergency operations, and staff entrance gates as necessary to provide critical safety information", Bernhardt wrote in a Sunday letter to Sen.

Stewart said Sunday that he was happy Interior would keep the parks running.

Parks supporters called the administration's move misguided. "For those parks that don't collect fees, they will now be in the position of competing for the same inadequate pot of money to protect their resources and visitors". Howenweep National Monument lists $255,000 in backlogged repairs, and Yucca House National Monument lists $125,000.

With no one to clean, empty and maintain the trashcans and bathrooms, Zaharias anxious that trash - and human feces - would pile up and conditions would worsen to the point of shuttering the park.

The National Park Service, citing aging facilities, increased visitation and unreliable funding, hasn't kept pace with infrastructure repairs, said Restore America's Parks' campaign organizer Michael Dabbs, during a 2017 meeting at the WildEdge Brewing Collective in downtown Cortez.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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