Visitors to Death Valley, Red Rock feel impact of shutdown

Updated January 4, 2019 - 10:39 pm

DEATH VALLEY, Calif. — By 2 p.m. Friday, the couple from Los Angeles had already set up their campsite at Furnace Creek.

Kevin Randolph and Oscar Arroyo had just pitched their red tent, set up their firepit and laid down their supplies for stargazing at Death Valley National Park.

It was a great spot, they said. They wondered why there weren’t many other tents set up.

“What do they know that we don’t?” Randolph said they asked each other. The two found out less than an hour later.

As they drove their white Volvo past the entrance to the Furnace Creek Campground, they spotted a National Park Service maintenance worker — one of the few working during the partial government shutdown — using a forklift to move a concrete barrier into place to ensure campers wouldn’t enter the closed site.

“Hey, we have a tent set up there,” Randolph shouted from his car window. “Can we go get it?”

They would have to move their camp, the maintenance worker said, directing them to the open Stovepipe Wells Campground. “Please take advantage of that while you still can,” he told them.

“It’s kind of concerning,” Arroyo said. “Hopefully we can find a campsite,” Randolph added.

The Furnace Creek Campground is one of several park locations that closed Friday because of safety concerns from human waste, trash and park resource damage. Others included Texas Springs Campgrounds, Natural Bridge, Dante’s View and Keane Wonder Mine and Salt Creek.

The National Park Service has a contingency plan that will keep an estimated 3,300 employees at work providing services essential for visitor protection.

Despite the lack of government appropriations, the park had reopened its Furnace Creek Visitor Center on Thursday, thanks to a cash donation by the Death Valley Natural History Association, a nonprofit organization.

Where’s the bathroom?

The park counts itself lucky to have partners to help keep maintaining some of their bathrooms and the visitors’ center, spokesman Patrick Taylor said.

The cash donation is about $2,700 a day for the staff to work at the visitor center desk, clean restrooms and general supplies and test the water to make sure it’s safe as well as utility costs, Taylor said.

It’s the first time it has been necessary for this donation, and the organization also agreed to maintain the adjoined public restroom until at least Thursday.

One issue remains the biggest nuisance for visitors and park maintenance during the shutdown, he said.

“When people arrive, they don’t care how pretty it is. It’s, ‘Where’s the bathroom?’ That’s the first question,” Taylor said.

When bathrooms are full and workers can’t empty them, park visitors will relieve themselves in the desert or campgrounds, and some kick down locked bathroom doors in desperation, Taylor said.

Those bathrooms are historic buildings that aren’t easy to repair, he said.

“Overwhelmingly, there has been a bathroom that’s been closed, and people have been continuing to go to the bathroom all around it,” he said. “Digging holes in the dirt, and sometimes not digging holes in the dirt.”

Taylor said the additional help from Oasis at Death Valley, managed by Xanterra Travel Collection, which agreed to maintain four public restrooms at the Ryan entrance station, Zabriskie Point, Golden Canyon and Badwater Basin locations, has been greatly appreciated.

“We’re grateful,” he said. “We have it pretty good here because of the partners helping with our bathrooms, and the visitors — it’s a good combination.”

The majority of visitors are treating the park with more respect than normal, he said. “It’s just a few folks that are getting all the headlines.”

The partial shutdown marked a slight inconvenience for some park visitors, but they were still intent on making the most of their trip.

At the Ryan entrance, Anne-Marie Dekoninck and Jean-Claude Lefebure, visiting from Belgium, stopped to use the bathroom. As Dekoninck entered a restroom, a woman in a purple scarf left a stall, shielding herself from the smell with her scarf.

It was ironic, Dekoninck said, because the Belgian government had shut down last month, too.

“We’re a little upset at the smell,” she said. “But, we’re here.”

At Badwater Basin, a German couple said they were barely affected by the partial shutdown: They had rented a recreational vehicle for their Western road trip. They had a bathroom, food and a built-in kitchen.

“And we get in free,” Karlheinz Schuster said with a smile.

The lapse in maintenance was clear at the park’s Zabriskie Point. Dumpsters with “Make America Green Again” stickers overflowed in the parking lot. Three brown banana peels sat nearby. Yet, RVs and cars still filled every space.

Aware of the situation, the Horneck family from Bakersfield, California, came prepared for a stop on their way back from an East Coast trip.

They made their own lunches and maintained their ecological footprint by keeping a trash bag in the car. More importantly, they brought their own toilet paper.

“We were on the fence about it, but I downloaded all the maps,” Jeremy Horneck said. “It was a beautiful day for a hike.”

Outside the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, members of Boy Scout Troop 185 from Lancaster, California, circled around, eager to get started on their weekend camping trip at Cow Creek. Because of the government shutdown, they adjusted their schedule to pick up trash when they can and help keep the park clean.

Jeffrey Stahmann, 17, said he has participated in dozens of camping trips during his six years as a Boy Scout, but this weekend’s trip would be his first during a partial government shutdown.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to step in.”

Closer to home

In the Las Vegas Valley, visitors can still enter the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Red Rock National Conservation Area during the partial government shutdown, but they do so at their own risk.

The visitors center at Lake Mead, which is maintained by the National Park Service, is also closed during the shutdown. Several bathrooms at the Lake Mead are still accessible though they are not being maintained, and trails and campgrounds are still open.

The Las Vegas Boat Harbor and Lake Mead Marina are operated by Boating Lake Mead, an independent concessionaire, and remain open.

Emergency services at both areas are limited.

The visitors center at Red Rock is closed, and no Bureau of Land Management employees are on hand to clean bathrooms, remove trash or maintain the trails and roads at the park.

The entrance to the area remained without staff on Thursday, with signs posted at the fee area warning: “Any entry onto BLM property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s own risk.”

The BLM’s 2018 contingency plan for government shutdowns calls for law enforcement and emergency personnel to keep working without pay while about 6,930 nonessential employees are furloughed.

“I didn’t even think about (the shutdown),” said Robert Waters of Houston, who visited Red Rock on Thursday with his wife and two daughters. “The sign said, ‘Come on in,’ so we did.”

Sierra Mackenzie, 18, came prepared when she took advantage of the shutdown to visit the park for free with her friends. She brought her own toilet paper.

“My mom gave me a roll before I left the house,” she said.

Parking lots overflowed at Red Rock trailheads and overlooks on Thursday, with vehicles lined up next to no-parking signs along the scenic loop. Visitors lined up at bathrooms but complained about the lack of toilet paper.

“There’s a lot of tourists and other people here usually,” Mackenzie said, “but I’ve never seen this many cars.”

She and her friends were taking their trash home with them so they wouldn’t leave anything behind at the park, Mackenzie said. The teens filled a backpack with empty water bottles and wrappers they picked up while exploring the park.

Local rock climber Brent Maxfield said that climbers often take it upon themselves to keep their parks clean.

“The problem is you have a lot of people coming and going who don’t understand the culture of maintenance,” he said. “This is our playground, and if we don’t take care of it, we lose it.”

Maxfield and his dog, Leo, went out to the Red Rock to do “recon” on Thursday, checking up on the level of trash at trailheads and pull-offs along the scenic loop. He said they haven’t seen any serious issues yet, but trash will keep piling up until employees return to work.

“There’s rangers and all these people whose job it is to take care of the parks, but if they don’t, we will,” he said.

Other parks

The visitor’s center at Zion National Park will remain open through Saturday , thanks to donations from the state of Utah and the Zion Forever Project. A donation from the Bryce Canyon Natural History Association will keep the Bryce Canyon National Park Visitor Center open through Thursday

The visitor center at Nevada’s Great Basin National Park is closed for the season, and calls to the Lehman Cave Visitor Center at the park were not answered on Friday.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter. Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tourists enjoy rain in downtown Las Vegas
Tourists break out the umbrellas. But Brian Herting of Lincoln, Nebraska, dons shorts and a T-shirt, as he makes his way through downtown Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Thick fog blanketed Las Vegas Valley on Tuesday
Thick fog blanketed Las Vegas Valley on Tuesday. The National Weather Service.forecast called for a 50 percent chance of rain. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Time lapse video of fog covering the Strip
The Las Vegas Strip is shrouded in fog Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Tony Spilotro's Las Vegas home for sale — VIDEO
The former Las Vegas home of Chicago mob enforcer, Tony Spilotro, is now for sale. Spilotro, who was portrayed by Joe Pesci in the film Casino, is the original owner of the home at 4675 Balfour Drive, built in 1974. (Samia DeCubas/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Buffalo Drive And Mountains Edge Parkway Fatal
Las Vegas police and the Nevada Highway Patrol are investigating a fatal crash in the southwest valley on Saturday afternoon. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV's Joel Ntambwe on his play
UNLV forward Joel Ntambwe talks about his play at this point in the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Sam Schmidt chats about hectic off-season
IndyCar team owner Sam Schmidt and lead driver James Hinchcliffe chat about the hectic off-season at the SpeedVegas high-performance driving facility outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, on January 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
R-J's Mark Anderson on UNLV's victory
Review-Journal sports reporter Mark Anderson recaps UNLV's victory at New Mexico. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
UNLV's Noah Robotham on the win at New Mexico
UNLV guard Noah Robotham talks about winning at New Mexico on Jan. 8, 2019. (Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
UNLV's Kris Clyburn on big 3 vs. New Mexico
UNLV guard Kris Clyburn talks about his key 3-pointer against New Mexico. (Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marvin Menzies on beating New Mexico
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about UNLV's win at New Mexico on January 8, 2019. (Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New HOV Ramp Scheduled to Open in March
New HOV ramp scheduled to open in March of 2019.
American Preparatory Academy part of charter school growth in Las Vegas
American Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas has a waiting list of students who want to attend. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Wheelchair tournament at UNLV
Cesar Robledo talks about wheelchair basketball and what it means for players to compete during the Wheelchair Basketball Division I-II Tournament at UNLV in Las Vegas, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.
Snow in Henderson on New Year's Eve morning
Light snow flurries in Anthem Highlands in Henderson on Monday morning, the last day of 2018.
Marvin Menzies on UNLV's trip to Hawaii
UNLV basketball coach Marvin Menzies talks about the upcoming trip to Hawaii. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Raiders Stadium Timelapse
Construction on the new Raiders stadium continues in Las Vegas.
Pinecrest Academy Horizon principal wins Milken Educator Award
Tony Sanchez on UNLV's recruiting class
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez talks about his early signing class. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village's Magical Forest added 1 million lights and a synchronized music show visible from all over the forest this year. The holiday attraction, which began in 1991, has a train, rides, food and entertainment along with the light displays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Siegel Cares delivers bagels to families in need
Since Thanksgiving, Mark Lenoir of Siegel Cares, has been delivering leftover Bagelmania bagels to families staying at the Siegel Suites.
Dan Barnson steps down
Arbor View football coach Dan Barnson stepped down Friday after 12 seasons at the helm. Under Barnson, the Aggies won 104 games and became one of the top programs in Las Vegas. The Aggies went 12-2 in 2018 and won a region championship for the first time in program history. Barnson loves Friday nights, but said the 12-month commitment was getting exhausting.
NFR 2018 Highlights
NFR 2018 highlights from every round of this years rodeo.
NFR 2018 Round 10 Highlights
NFR 2018 Round 10 Highlights of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas, Nevada. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
NFR- Joe Frost
NFR Bull Rider Joe Frost talks about the difference in bulls and his family legacy with Cassie Soto before the last round of the National Finals Rodeo.
Herm Edwards on LV Bowl loss
Arizona State coach Herm Edwards talks about the loss in the Las Vegas Bowl. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State linebacker George Helmuth after LV Bowl
Linebacker George Helmuth talks about Fresno State's turnaround. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Youth cancer survivor receives gift bat at Winter Meetings
Cancer survivor Steven Mondragon, baseball player at Los Altos High in Hacienda Heights, California, received a complimentary bamboo bat during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NFR Day 9 Highlights
Highlights from round 9 of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo from the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas, Nevada. (CBS Sports Network/PRCA)
Tony Sanchez wraps up the UNLV season
UNLV football coach Tony Sanchez wraps up the season. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Life
Stop the bleed
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to stop bleeding
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
World Holidays Exhibit At The Natural History Museum
Migratory Bird Day teaches adults and kids to celebrate birds
Different organizations offered activities for kids and adults to learn about birds and celebrate their migration journey at Sunset Park. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like