The 1,200-square-mile national park suffered from the 34-day shutdown.
Joshua Tree is a beloved camping destination that many Angelenos treck to quite frequently. Earlier this month we reported that Park Service staffers were unable to carry out their usual tasks of maintaining the natural preservation of the campgrounds during the shutdown.
Furloughed park staff were instructed to leave the park’s gates open ultimately leaving visitors unattended. After numerous acts of irresponsible behavior, public safety risks, and multiple accounts of destruction – employees took matters into their own hands by closing the campgrounds.
The director of the California Desert and National Wildlife program told CNN that “people are walking off trails, bringing their dogs, people are trampling and destroying the things they want to preserve without knowing it.”
There were other reports of illegal drone flights, off-road driving, and camping in restricted or unauthorized areas. As if circumstances weren’t already rough – litter filled the sides of roads and the bathrooms were overflowing with human waste. Volunteers from the community tried to pitch in and help with maintenance but there was only so much everyone could contribute. By the time the shutdown finally came to an end Joshua trees were chopped down, rocks were vandalized, and two new roads were created by off-roading.
Since Joshua Tree’s ecosystem is so delicate and has already shown signs of stress due to the spike in visitors over the years, experts are predicting that there will be major challenges in regards to protecting the environment for future generations.