As the government shutdown moves into its second week with no quick end in sight, understaffed national parks are dealing with overflowing toilets and trash cans—and it's getting so bad that visitors have just started dropping deuces on the side of the road, the Washington Post reports.
Hundreds of thousands of government employees are currently furloughed because of the shutdown, leaving only a skeleton crew of park employees on board to keep them up and running. That means there aren't nearly enough people to pick up trash or empty the pit toilets or even man all the gates to collect entry fees. Over the holidays, the suffering national parks—many of which are still open, and temporarily free to visit—have seen a massive influx of visitors, and with them comes a massive need to take dumps.
"It’s a free-for-all," Yosemite Valley resident Dakota Snider told the Associated Press earlier this week. "It’s so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I’ve seen in my four years living here."
According to Sabra Purdy, a rock climbing guide at Joshua Tree, some of the defecatory damage being done to America's national parks is so severe, it might be irreversible.
"Once those port-a-potties fill up, there’s no amount of cleaning that will save them," Purdy told the Post.
Some parks have already been forced to close areas because of the mess, and it looks like Joshua Tree just became the latest casualty: It closed all its campgrounds on Wednesday save for two, which are only open in the daytime until the shutdown is over and workers can try to mitigate the damages.
"The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity," the park service said in a statement. "In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off-road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem."
It's likely that more national parks could go the way of Joshua Tree if the shutdown continues, but if you're still taking advantage of the free admission in the meantime, come on, everybody—America's exceptional national parks are one of the last bits of pure goodness left in our increasingly depressing country. Let's try not to literally shit all over them.
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