January 18, 2019

Volunteers take to the national parks to clean up while the government is shut down

Residents pitch in to do what they can to keep their communities clean.

Volunteer Alexandra Degen cleans a bathroom in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Something unusual is happening at national parks across the country. Despite the ongoing government shutdown, concerned citizens are making their way to parks to do the work that furloughed National Park Service employees are unable to do.

While a third of NPS sites are closed, the rest remain open to visitors. This means that over the last three weeks, litter and vandalization has started to crop up in places from Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Parks in California to the Everglades National Park in Florida and even the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Groups of friends and neighbors around the country have stepped up and headed to these and other locations to pick up trash and make sure that “America’s Best Idea” stays beautiful and accessible to people.

“It helped me feel like I was doing as much as I could, at the moment when everything feels like it’s happening behind closed doors,” volunteer Brittany Price told CityLab.

This volunteer-led cleanup will also be a big help to NPS employees, who will have a lot additional work to do in order to restore the parks once the government is reopened.

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