TWENTYNINE PALMS (CBSLA) — Joshua Tree National Park was reopened Monday for the first time since the end of 35-day government shutdown – but it may take hundreds of years to return to its former glory.
Parts of the nearly 800,000-acre national park remained open during the shutdown that started on Dec. 22, and ended just last Friday. But eventually it had to be shut down after reports of overflowing toilets and trash throughout the park.
In the absence of park rangers who maintained order, off-roaders plowed down some new trails and destroyed several trees — which can survive for hundreds of years — during the shutdown. People also camped in areas that are normally off-limits, causing even more damage to the pristine desert wilderness.
One former park worker said money that had been saved for a new visitors center now has to be redirected for trash pickup.
Some of the damage to the park — which is home to the protected Joshua tree and attracts climbing enthusiasts with the large number of dramatic outcroppings – could take as much as 200 years to fix, according to park workers.