As a result of the Trump government shutdown, some 800,000+ federal employees are either furloughed from their jobs, else are asked to continue working without immediate compensation and with only the hope of back pay at some elusive date in the future. Among those who are on furlough are the employees of the national parks around the nation.With nobody to empty trash, clean restrooms, move debris from public areas, the parks were, after nearly three weeks untended, falling into a state of disrepair. But last week, some good people took notice. Let me introduce you to just a few …
Mike Skelton is the owner of Yellowstone Wonders, a company that offers tours of Yellowstone National Park. Last week, with the holidays in the rearview mirror, Mike noticed a serious buildup of trash in the park.
“We all live here. When it gets down to it, it is our park and it belongs to all of us in this country.”
And with that, he gathered a few other local residents and got to work. They brushed snow off entrances, cleaned toilets, replaced toilet paper and switched out garbage bags, and they’ll likely do it again most weekends, if the shutdown continues. The first day, Saturday, Mr. Skelton was joined by about 15 volunteers, but the next day, Sunday, there were 40! Some volunteers brought supplies from home or bought them along the way.In addition to individuals lending a hand, dozens of small businesses located in proximity to Yellowstone National Park have all chipped in thousands of dollars to keep the park open and tidy during the winter tourist season … they even offer free pizza to the volunteers!
In Tennessee, Marc Newland and his 10-year-old daughter Erica have spent their days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hiking the mountain trails with trash bags in hand so they can pick up litter along the way. The Newlands have always been avid hikers, but when Marc told his daughter about how the shutdown would affect the mountain park, she suggested that they take it upon themselves to keep the trails tidy.
“Erica says that she would like to challenge other hikers to take one day off from getting in miles and impressive vista pics and instead, give back by grabbing a trash bag, heading to the park and collecting some litter!! These mountains give so much to so many people. Imagine if only a fraction of those people decided to give back to the mountains.”
Ever hear of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA)? It is a Maryland-based organization that regularly organizes community service cleaning efforts across the country, and presently they are mobilizing to clean up in Joshua Tree National Park, Everglades National Park, the National Mall, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio.
At least 70 members of the group emptied overflowing trash cans, picked up piles of litter and swept the streets over the weekend. Young. Muslim. Men. The ones who so many call terrorists … are picking up trash in order to keep our national parks clean. Think about that one for a minute, if you will.
These are but a few of the groups and individuals who are stepping up to the plate during the Trump shutdown to help keep things running smoothly. Unfortunately, due to a weekend incident where park visitors damaged trees while driving off-road, Joshua Tree National Park is now closed to visitors. Had park rangers been on the job, the incident likely would not have happened.
Nonetheless, there are thousands of people out there volunteering to pick up the slack left by the Trump shutdown, and I, for one, am grateful to them. The parks belong to us all, and we should offer kudos to these fine volunteers for helping to take care of the parks so that we can continue to enjoy them. Thank you ALL!!!