Joshua Tree National Park will be temporarily closed as of Thursday morning due to damage caused by visitors during the partial government shutdown. Park officials sat few rangers are on hand to prevent off-road driving leading to destruction of the park’s namesake trees.
“While the vast majority of those who visit Joshua Tree National Park do so in a responsible manner, there have been incidents of new roads being created by motorists and the destruction of Joshua trees in recent days that have precipitated the closure,” the park said in a statement.
“Law enforcement rangers will continue to patrol the park and enforce the closure until park staff complete the necessary cleanup and park protection measures.”
In a tweet from park officials, the closure will “allow staff to address sanitation, safety, and resource protection issues in the park that have arisen during the lapse in appropriations.”
For the past several days, volunteers have stepped forward to help clean the park.
The park covers nearly 800,000 acres in the Mohave and Colorado deserts east of Los Angeles and draws 4 million visitors annually.
The announcement is only the latest park closure prompted by the government shutdown that has resulted in overflowing toilets and trash bins as visitors enter without paying park fees.
Parts of Yosemite National Park are closed, as well as much of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
On Sunday, national park officials said they would be using entrance fees to pay for operations and basic maintenance.