June 16, 2024

Joshua Tree National Park officially reopened its doors Jan. 28 after the end of the five-week partial U.S. government shutdown.

Although parts of the park were open during the shut-down, all workers except select rangers were sent home on furlough.

Entrance into the park was free and Joshua Tree experienced a significant amount of visitation.

Reopening the park included the park shuttle service, tours and all programs.

George Land, public information officer of Joshua Tree, discussed the effects of the government shutdown on Joshua Tree, saying they were not nearly as bad as the media made it out to be.

He said while the park did sustain some damage, it was nothing they weren’t unable to mitigate.

Overall, the shutdown impacted funding more heavily than the park itself. Joshua Tree lost an estimated $1 million during the shutdown because of the loss of entrance and camping fees.

“One tree that is damaged is one too many; one out of bounds campfire is one too many.

“We identified about 108 places where people had started fires outside of camp grounds. We were fortunate none of them got out of control,” Land said. “When they let us bring back a segment of our staff, we immediately set to work fixing the damage and handling repairs.

“We began acting as an ongoing force of good to pre- vent anything else from happening.”

The 800,000-acre national park reported clogged bathrooms, overfilled trash cans, vandalism and illegal camping, all causing damage and adding damage and adding to the task of parking cleanup.

When visiting the park post-government shutdown, Nicholas Clift, freshman behavioral science major, noticed staff hard at work to re- store the park to its pristine condition.

“Joshua Tree has always been one of my favorite parks,” Clift said. “I was glad to hear when it reopened, and the park was not in any terrible condition.”

Dr. Jacob Lanphere, associate professor of environmental science, said litter can have a big impact on the park.

“People will still come to places even though they are closed and leave trash everywhere,” Lanphere said. “This can attract wildlife that could potentially have a negative impact on their future.”

Joshua Tree will continue to act as a piece of American history as the staff of the na- tional park are back at work, serving the American people and welcoming visitors.

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