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Joshua Tree Is Closing Because It's Too Gross And People Are Destroying Trees

(Courtesy National Park Service)
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Joshua Tree National Park had been open to visitors during the government shutdown, which meant nature lovers could enjoying fee-free entry and camping.

It also meant that limited park staff couldn't clean or restock bathrooms, remove trash or properly patrol its roughly 800,000 acres.

But now the National Park Service is saying Joshua Tree will be closed temporarily due to unsanitary conditions and damage inflicted on the environment and its famous trees. Officials hope to reopen the park to visitors and provide "limited basic services" in the near future.

The closure begins at 8 a.m. Thursday "to allow park staff to address sanitation, safety, and resource protection issues in the park that have arisen during the lapse in appropriations," NPS spokesman George Land said in a statement.

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Land added that while most park visitors have been safe and responsible, "there have been incidents of new roads being created by motorists and the destruction of Joshua trees in recent days that have precipitated the closure."

Since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, volunteers have stepped up to help clean the park, but with no one to empty the park's vault toilets, they're filling up (gross), which has become a health hazard.

A sign of the limited staffing at Joshua Tree National Park: The restrooms at the park entrance were closed on Tuesday. (Emily Elena Dugdale/LAist)

"Law enforcement rangers will continue to patrol the park and enforce the closure until park staff complete the necessary cleanup and park protection measures," Land said.

Joshua Tree isn't the only park experiencing unsanitary conditions. That's why NPS announced they'll have to dip into a fund set aside for future projects to clean, repair and maintain park land as the shutdown continues.

The Park Service will start using the money "to clean up trash that has built up at numerous parks, clean and maintain restrooms, bring additional law enforcement rangers into parks to patrol accessible areas, and to restore accessibility to areas that would typically be accessible this time of year," NPS Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith said in a statement. The fund comes from fees typically collected from park visitors, like for entry and parking.

"While the NPS will not be able to fully open parks, and many of the smaller sites around the country will remain closed, utilizing these funds now will allow the American public to safely visit many of our nation's national parks while providing these iconic treasures the protection they deserve," Smith said.

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