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Death Valley Latest National Park Affected by Shutdown

USA

05 January 2019, 07:48

The National Park Service says parts of Death Valley National Park closed Friday, the latest park to suffer the effects of the partial government shutdown, VOA news reports.

Officials say several campsites in the park had to be closed because of health and safety concerns, including human waste, trash and vandalism.

Park officials say donations are keeping several other campsites in Death Valley National Park open as well as some restrooms. Visitors are still being asked to try to use restrooms before entering the park and to pack up all waste when they leave.

Three visitor deaths

The shutdown has affected most national parks, which have been left without many of the rangers and other park officials who usually keep the parks running.

Park officials say three people have died in national parks since the shutdown began: a 14-year-old girl who fell in Glen Canyon Recreation Area in Arizona, a man who suffered a head injury from a fall in Yosemite National Park, and a woman who was killed by a falling tree at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee.

Park officials say that accidental deaths are not unusual at national parks, with an average of six people dying each week in the park system.

While it is not clear if any of those deaths could have been prevented by more park staff on site, The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the investigation into at least one of the deaths, the accident in Yosemite, has been delayed because of the shutdown.

Parks left open, unsupervised

Unlike some previous shutdowns, the Trump administration has left most parks open to visitors despite staff furloughs.

The move has allowed people vacationing in parks to continue with their plans, but has led to cases of overflowing trash cans and park bathrooms not being cleaned frequently enough.

Reports of illegal camping and vandalism at some parks have led to some restrictions.

Campgrounds at Joshua Tree closed earlier this week because of health concerns that vault toilets were near their capacity.

In the southern Sierra Nevada in Central California, some areas of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks have also been closed.

About 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay. As of Friday, the partial shutdown had been in effect for 14 days. This is the fourth-longest government shutdown — partial or full — in the past 40 years.