Yosemite National Park has a poop problem. Thanks to the government shutdown, the restrooms in the popular California park aren’t open, and visitors, when nature calls, are simply doing their business on the roads, the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting.
Whenever the government shuts down, the first things to be shuttered are “non-essential” services, which includes government workers employed by national parks. Guests are still allowed to visit the parks, but anything that requires an employee to maintain it – such as the cash registers at the visitors’ center or a custodian to keep the bathrooms clean – is not happening.
And visitors, lacking better options, are simply pooping by the side of the road.
It’s not funny, says National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz, in an email to the Los Angeles Times.
“With restrooms closed, some visitors are opting to deposit their waste in natural areas adjacent to high traffic areas, which creates a health hazard for other visitors.”
It’s so bad that California officials have had to close off certain areas of the park, such as the Mariposa Grove, where hundreds-feet-tall redwoods grow, and two nearby campgrounds, Wawona and Hodgson Meadows.
It’s not just at Yosemite. Over at Joshua Tree National Park, the toilets were open – until they started overflowing, that is, according to the San Bernadino Sun. In a statement, the National Park Service said that they were left with no choice but to close all of the park’s campgrounds.
“The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity. In addition, human waste in public areas, driving off road and other infractions that damage the resources are becoming a problem.”
Yosemite's bathrooms are closed because of the shutdown. Now, sections of the park have to close because visitors are using the side of the road as their toilet. https://t.co/wcNoTjPQI1— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) December 31, 2018
It’s not just overflowing toilets. Dogs are roaming off-leash, and in the absence of security forces to keep things at-bay, riders of off-road vehicles are tearing up the park’s trails.
Things are slightly better at Death Valley National Park. So far, the toilets are functioning – kind of. There’s no one to maintain them or stock them with toilet paper, but unless and until they become a safety hazard, says park spokeswoman Abby Vines, they’ll remain open.
In fact, Death Valley was fortunate in that some private money came through to keep at least some functions of the park going. The non-profit group Death Valley Natural History Association raised money to keep one building (with working toilets), the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, open until January 10.