Last Friday, President Trump signed a bill that temporarily ended the 35-day long government shutdown, reopening US national parks and other federal agencies for three weeks.

During the shutdown, national parks were heavily polluted, with some parks like Joshua Tree making the news, as locals described the scene as a “free for all.”

For now, national park employees are returning to work, aiming to fix the problems caused by off-roading, illegal camping, littering, overflowing bathrooms and most recently, a Joshua Tree that was impermissibly chopped down.

Thanks to volunteers who worked tirelessly to keep the parks intact during the shutdown, most will return to normalcy in a timely manner. However, some officials only wish they could say the same for sites that saw the worst of it.

Park Superintendent David Smith told National Parks Traveler, “We’ve never seen this level of out-of-bounds camping. Every day-use area was occupied every evening. Joshua trees were actually cut down in order to make new roads.”

Retired Joshua Tree park ranger Curt Sauer told Desert Sun, “What’s happened to our park in the last 35 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years.” Sauer has lived in the area for two decades and worked as a volunteer during the shutdown.

Joshua Tree resident Ray Roberts told Desert Sun, “There is graffiti all over the place.”

Outside the park, local communities and surrounding businesses have been taking big hits, too.

Local restaurants are seeing less customers than usual and John Lauretig, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of Joshua Tree, told Desert Sun, “The local community is fed up with our parks being held hostage and the fact that it’s open and partially staffed is not good for the park, it’s not good for the public and it’s not good for the local community here.

“We want the government to operate appropriately, fund the parks appropriately and be open so we can have a regular, normal life,” he added.

Now that federal employees are returning to work (after missing two paychecks), it seems safe to assume that areas like Joshua Tree will indeed return to normalcy. However, with only a temporary three-week reprieve established, only time will tell what comes next.

h/t: Desert Sun

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