Joshua Tree National Park shut down by California officials after trees vandalised

The temporary closure will allow staff to ‘address immediate maintenance and sanitation issues’

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 09 January 2019 16:57 GMT
US Democrat senators Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer speak following Donald Trump's government shutdown address

Visitors to California’s iconic Joshua Tree National Park will be left disappointed from 10 January, as the park is being temporarily closed to tackle vandalism and sanitation issues.

The US National Park will be shut from 8am, with officials stating they plan to restore accessibility to the park in addition to limited basic services “in the coming days”.

The move was prompted by some visitors creating new roads in the park instead of using marked trails, damaging the park’s namesake trees in the process.

There are also pressing “sanitation issues”, such as overflowing rubbish bins and vault toilets on the brink of capacity, caused by a lack of staff during an ongoing partial US government budget shutdown, now in its 19th day. The shutdown has cut off federal workers’ pay this week, affecting national park employees.

The above issues already prompted the park to close campsites temporarily on 2 January. Without the necessary rangers on hand, many visitors entered the park without paying the $30 park admission fee.

National Park Service spokesman George Land said the decision to temporarily close the park was made at a national level.

“Park officials are identifying the additional staff and resources needed to address immediate maintenance and sanitation issues and will utilise funds from the park fees to address those issues per the recently updated National Park Service contingency plan during a lapse in appropriations,” he said.

“The communities near Joshua Tree National Park have provided significant assistance and support to the park, and park officials hope to restore visitor access to the park as quickly as possible to mitigate any negative impact to the local economy.”

He added that, while the vast majority of those who visit Joshua Tree National Park do so responsibly, “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”.

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“Law enforcement rangers will continue to patrol the park and enforce the closure until park staff complete the necessary cleanup and park protection measures.”

Anyone with camping reservations booked through over the next couple of days will receive a full refund.

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