Nightmare-scenario: U.S. national parks dispose of lock due to budget

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Joshua Tree National Park in California closed its campgrounds Wednesday amid health concerns. "There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules then I've seen in my four years living here".

Parts of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, also in California, closed Monday because of overflowing trash and traffic jams, The Associated Press reported. Yosemite Valley's lodgings, restaurants, ski area at Badger Pass and the park shuttle remain open.

Officials at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado said they were closing restrooms and locking up trash bins in many locations.

It added, "Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor's sole risk". Among the closures are all nineteen Smithsonian museums in NY and Washington, DC, including the African American Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Air and Space Museum, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and the National Zoo. While many of these national parks are still allowing visitors access, they are largely unstaffed - gates into the parks have typically been left wide open, allowing visitors to drive in without paying the typical $30 entrance fee. Indeed, Joshua Tree is reportedly closing all campsites starting today.

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In California, tourists have been relieving themselves on the side of the roads because Yosemite's restrooms and visitor centers have been shuttered since December 22 when the shutdown began, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Joshua Tree, which covers more than 792,000 acres of national park from Palm Springs north to the town of Joshua Tree, will remain open during the shutdown.

Some of the roads at Yosemite National Park have been reported to be virtual toilets with restrooms locked and sanitation services nonexistent. "The community holds together", says Ethan Feltges, who runs a Souvenir Shop in the vicinity, and a toilet cabin in front of it.

Yager says the reason he has no problem cleaning up is because he has loved the national park since he was 13, when he dreamed of climbing El Capitan.

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The shutdown, now in its second week, has forced thousands of federal government employees out of work.

In Yellowstone National Park, private companies have picked up some of the maintenance normally done by federal workers. Visitors are entering without paying, and with no staff on hand, bathrooms are not being cleaned and trash cans are overflowing.

Rattlesnake Canyon will close to reduce the number of potential search-and-rescue events for rangers already spread thin because of the shutdown, the park service said.

"It's definitely not our preference - the park service does a good job doing their thing and we hate to see them out of work, " Watt said.

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