NPS Looking for Stability as Shutdown Risk Looms Again (2/4/2019)

Story by Woodall's Campground Management

National park visitors cut new trails in sensitive soil. They pried open gates while no one was watching. They found bathrooms locked, so they went outside. One off-roader even mowed down an iconic twisted-limbed Joshua tree in California, according to thedenverchannel.com.

During the 35-day government shutdown, some visitors at parks and other protected areas nationwide left behind messes that National Park Service officials are scrambling to clean up as they brace for the possibility of another closure ahead of the busy Presidents Day weekend this month.

Conservationists warn that damage to sensitive lands could take decades to recover. National parks already faced an estimated $12 billion maintenance backlog that now has grown.

Many parks went unstaffed during the shutdown, while others had skeleton crews with local governments and nonprofits contributing money and volunteers.

National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst in Washington, D.C., declined to provide a full accounting of the damage at more than 400 locations, saying it was isolated and most visitors took good care of the land.

But interviews with park officials and nonprofits that help keep parks running reveal a toll from people and winter storms when workers could not make fixes quickly.

President Donald Trump has said another shutdown could start Feb. 15 if he and Democratic leaders can’t agree on funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, compounding pressure on the park service to catch up on repairs.

Hiring seasonal workers who typically start in the spring as rangers, fee collectors and hiking guides also has been delayed.

“We’re kind of ready to just have a bit more stability,” said Angie Richman, a spokeswoman at Arches National Park in Utah.

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