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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Shutdown is risking our national parks

With the government shutdown, we’ve heard about many examples of bad behavior at national parks around the country. Most parks remain open, but they aren’t staffed.

Recently, The Los Angeles Times had an alarming story about human waste and trash being dumped off roads in Yosemite and Joshua Tree national parks.

We found ourselves driving past Joshua Tree as the story broke, so we decided to stop in and check things out. Joshua Tree is one of our favorite parks anywhere, so it would be heartbreaking to see it treated badly.

What did we find? During two drives through the park, everything looked OK. No trash was visible from the roadways, and for the most part, visitors were being respectful.

We did see a few visitors walking off-trail through the desert, a definite no-no. The desert environment is extremely fragile -- please stay out, people.

We also noticed a fair amount of traffic, with people taking advantage of the lack of entrance fees. And that traffic tended to be a little hectic, openly violating the park’s speed limits.

The biggest worry, as the shutdown continues, is that bad actors will become more bold as time goes on. Let's hope it ends soon -- our national parks are too valuable to ruin because of a political dispute.

Here's a video tour from our recent visit:

John Nelson
John Nelson is a freelance writer.