Despite reports of rampant vandalism and littering in national parks during the partial federal shutdown, volunteers who hoped to help clean up Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend found little work to be done.
After reading news stories about trash and dirty bathrooms at Rocky Mountain National Park, Cañon City resident Jason Moore decided he wanted to do something to help.
He organized a Facebook event in coordination with local chapters of the Libertarian Party of Colorado and within 30 minutes of announcing the event saw a large interest in helping out.
When he arrived about 8:45 a.m. Sunday at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center — one of two popular entrances to the park west of Estes Park — he found “immaculate” bathrooms and facilities coated with nothing but a layer of fresh snow.
“I was very, very surprised at the cleanliness,” Moore said.
Moore also visited the Fall River Visitor Center, which is located outside the park and has been open during the shutdown thanks to the Rocky Mountain Conservancy, and said it was clean as well. He and the other 16 people in his group walked about a quarter mile past the road closures and did not see any trash on the ground.
The main roads into the popular national park have been closed for almost the entirety of the shutdown, preventing people from accessing much of the interior by car. Park staff closed the roads in on Dec. 30 in anticipation of a snowstorm. The skeleton staff still working at the park would not be able to plow the roads during the partial shutdown. The park also closed restrooms and trash bins due to “human waste issues, wildlife concerns and overall public health,” according to a news release.
But it seemed other groups have been venturing to clean the park during the shutdown, Moore said, including another group that cleaned the Longs Peak trailhead on Saturday and found little litter.
Other national parks have been greatly impacted by short staffing during the shutdown. Vandals at Joshua Tree National Park in California chopped down multiple of the park’s signature trees. At least three people have died in accidents in the parks system since the shutdown began on Dec. 21.
Since there was little work to be done Sunday in Rocky Mountain National Park, Moore and his group opted to head into Estes Park for lunch.
“It was a validation to see that in the time that the government is suspended the people have risen up to protect these resources,” Moore said.
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