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Government Shut Down and our Parks

by: Olivia Eads

With the Government shut down, many of our favorite recreation areas are closed or lacking valuable resources for access. Websites are not being updated, restrooms are closed, trash is not being collected, and many people are taking full advantage of the lack of authority in these areas. Here are a few things to consider if you (like me) have planned an adventure this winter to one of our National Parks.

Where are you going to use the rest room?

Without proper facilities many people opt to just use the ground for their excrement; this is not a great idea depending on where you are going. In backcountry scenarios in some temperate climates you can simply dig a cat hole and burry your waste. In the desert, for example, that poses a large risk to the ecosystem because there is no water to recharge the soil and wash it away. In that case, you need to pack out your waste in what we like to call wag bags. If you are setting up a base camp somewhere, a bucket works nicely as well.

How to dispose of trash?

This is a no brainer. Even though waste is not being collected from the designated trash receptacles in these parks, you have the responsibility to pack out your own trash. Follow leave no trace principles. If you pack it in, pack it out. No one wants to be a litter bug. Instead of overloading a dumpster, carry it the extra mile to a town to dispose of.

Access to Resources being limited:

Websites are not updated with helpful information which is a huge bummer. This poses many risks to those adventuring in the areas for what weather to expect, hazards to be aware of, road closures, and general know abouts. Proceed with caution to these areas. Do your own research and get your best ideas on what to expect because it is no longer spelled out for you on their web page. Rangers are also very limited and not always available. You can try calling, but without a paycheck they are likely not to be on duty. This means that search and rescue is going to have a delayed response as well. Take two for safety (two seconds, two people, two moments etc.).

Have a backup plan       

Look at alternatives in the area if your number one destination is closed. I know it sucks to put in a lot of planning towards something only for it not to be achieved. Since June 2018 I have been planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park for an epic climbing adventure leaving 1/10… The park conveniently closes that day until further notice. There are so many wonderful open and inviting natural spaces. Lucky for me, flying into Vegas, there are amazing natural wonders in every direction. Now to choose where to go that isn’t affected by the 2019 shut down. Different parks have different restrictions right now. Try doing a Google search to see what restrictions are in place where and to what extent. My back up plan: RED ROCKS!

 Don’t sweat the little things

Life is too short. There is no use in stressing over things you cannot control. I still have 15 days of vacation to find some epic climbing out west. The best way to plan is with some wiggle room for when things go wrong. Take a deep breath and we’ll all get through this together.

 

Every federal area will have different rules and regulations during a shutdown. These areas include National Parks, Forests, Monuments, or other government funded areas. Some are closed with potential for prosecution, some will have visitor centers, restrooms, and other amenities locked and closed, and others will have little or no staffing available. For more details please visit your park web page. For more information on how the parks have been effected and considerations you should take please consider the articles linked below.

National Geographic

National Parks Conservation Association

 

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