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As government shutdown continues, human waste on Yosemite's roadsides prompt park closures

As government shutdown continues, human waste on Yosemite's roadsides prompt park closures
Yosemite National Park officials closed parts of the park Saturday citing health hazards linked to human waste. With bathrooms closed because of the partial federal government shutdown, visitors are using the side of the road as a toilet. (National Park Service)

Yosemite National Park visitors using the side of the road as a toilet have prompted the park to close two campgrounds and a popular redwood grove for public-safety reasons.

Yosemite’s restrooms and visitor centers have been closed and trash collection suspended since the partial federal government shutdown began Dec. 22, but the park itself remains open.

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“With restrooms closed, some visitors are opting to deposit their waste in natural areas adjacent to high-traffic areas, which creates a health hazard for other visitors,” National Parks Service spokesman Andrew Munoz said in an email Saturday.

Human feces and urine along Wawona Road, also known as California Highway 41, in the south part of the park contributed to the closure of the Mariposa Grove of redwoods as well as the Wawona and Hodgson Meadows campgrounds, a park statement said.

Park officials are urging visitors to use restrooms in nearby communities before they enter the park and to pack out their trash. Yosemite Valley’s lodgings, restaurants, ski area at Badger Pass and the park shuttle remain open.

Yosemite isn’t the only park experiencing the problems of waste and trash.

Death Valley, whose most popular landmarks have been crowded during the winter holidays, says outhouses are open but aren’t being cleaned or stocked with toilet paper during the closure.

They’ll “remain open unless they become a hazard to human health. Several have been closed for that reason,” park spokeswoman Abby Vines wrote in an email.

Death Valley had some good news for visitors. The Furnace Creek Visitor Center, which closed Dec. 22, reopened temporarily on Sunday. Nonprofit partner the Death Valley Natural History Assn. made a donation to keep the visitor center open until Jan. 10, a statement said.

The shutdown remains in effect as President Trump and congressional Democrats are at an impasse over Trump’s demand for funding of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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