As you know, the US government has been shut down for the last three weeks. During this time, many of our national parks have been forced to close access completely, while others leave their gates open, allowing access to some areas of the park. Unfortunately, as the shutdown continues, our parks remain understaffed, under supervised, and under maintained. Without park staff to enforce rules or boundaries, or inform visitors of changes to conditions effecting the safety of their route, People are finding themselves in dangerous situations. Limited park staff means limited rescue and recovery personnel as well. During the shutdown there have also been unfortunate reports of overflowing garbage receptacles, and restrooms. The excess of garbage left in the parks can have negative effects on our wildlife, and the overflowing restroom facilities are leading to an excess of people depositing human waste on the surface along roads and trails. Improper disposal of human waste is not only unsightly, but causes a heath concern.
Are you planning a trip to a national park in the future? Leave No Trace, The center for Outdoor Ethics recently published some guidelines on how to make sure that you are prepared:
1. Develop a plan B:
a. If you are able to substitute your National Parks Experience for a trip to a state park or one of the many other municipal land recreation opportunities, choose to do so.
2. Pack out ALL trash:
a. With garbage cans and dumpsters overflowing as it is, do your best not to contribute to the problem. Bring plenty of trash bags and plan to pack out any garbage that you produce, as well as trash left behind by other visitors.
3. It’s Time to try:
a. Since many restroom facilities are closed or un-usable, it is essential that you use biodegradable toilet-in-a-bag products, such as Restop or Clean Waste so that you can pack out your human waste.
4. Share Well With Others:
a. Share your Leave No trace knowledge with others! Rangers usually fill the role of Leave No Trace educators at our parks, and without them, many people will be exploring the parks with little to no background on Leave No trace.