Officials at Death Valley National Park in California say the impact of human waste and trash left by visitors during the government shutdown is “disturbing.”
Superintendent Mike Reynolds said in a news release Friday that workers cleaned up 1,655 clumps of toilet paper and 429 piles of human waste. He estimates people left a half-ton of feces outside restrooms that stayed open until they became too dirty.
He says staffers spent a combined 1,500 hours this week documenting the damage, cleaning and repairing.
Reynolds says visitors “tried to do the right thing by leaving trash next to full dumpsters, but wind and animals dispersed it.” He says the park’s resources and wildlife paid the price.
David Blacker, executive director of the Death Valley Natural History Association, said people tried to kick in locked restroom doors. The group kept the visitors center open during most of the shutdown, where tourists got information on packing out trash and digging a hole to use the bathroom.
A time-lapse video on Death Valley’s Facebook page showed how it took staffers two hours to clean a restroom overflowing with trash and splashed with waste. Crews also have to rake and replant vegetation to repair ruts from off-road vehicles, which delays work elsewhere in the 3.4 million-acre park.
“It became pretty depressing the kinds of things people will do when they are unsupervised,” Blacker said.
Other parks nationwide saw problems, and workers are trying to clean up before another possible shutdown this month.