Joshua Tree National Park will be closed to the public beginning Thursday morning to address maintenance, sanitation and safety issues resulting from the ongoing government shutdown, park officials announced Tuesday.
A lack of staff and resources amid the shutdown has led to a lapse in maintenance across the park, with only a small group of park rangers on hand to handle a rash of health and safety concerns regarding visitors, including vehicle off-roading, “human waste in public areas” due to toilets reaching capacity park-wide and “other infractions” that have led to damage of the park’s resources, including its namesake, the Joshua trees, according to a statement released by park spokesman George Land.
“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 statement says.
Since the shutdown began Dec. 22, the park has been understaffed while the popular attraction continues to draw a record number of visitors.
The closure will begin at 8 a.m. Thursday, which park officials say will allow staff to address those issues, utilizing park fees to fund the improvements “during a lapse in appropriations.”
While park staff conducts a cleanup of the area, law enforcement will be on hand to enforce the park’s closure.
Though officials did not disclose when the park was expected to reopen, “park officials hope to restore visitor access to the park as quickly as possible to mitigate any negative impact to the local economy.”
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