Monday, July 27, 2020

National parks getting trashed during pandemic

A volunteer scrubs graffiti off a rock in the Santa Paul Canyon in Ventura County, Calif. (Time photo by Ellie Mora)
Many U.S. national and state parks are getting trashed during the pandemic. "Many of these spaces, supposed to be untouched swaths of time-proof wilderness, have been overrun by first-time visitors seeking refuge from quarantine, joblessness, or the inability to take far-flung vacations," Andrew Chow reports for Time magazine. "And as people have flooded into the parks, new crises have arisen for rangers and nearby communities, including indigenous populations who were already particularly susceptible to the virus."

Some parks shut down briefly during March and April, but they began re-opening later, many with timed entry restrictions designed to keep people spread out, Chow reports. But that doesn't work to keep people from sneaking in before the rangers arrive in the morning or stop people from congregating at popular lookout points. The restrictions can also encourage park visitors to attempt to enter the park elsewhere—sometimes through Native American reservations that are disproportionately hit by the pandemic and trying to keep visitors away.

"In interviews, rangers at Big Bend National Park in Texas, Great Falls Park in Maryland, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Utah and Arizona said they have all seen increases in visitation following covid-19, particularly from first-timers," Chow reports. RV and camper sales have surged; so have campground reservations across the country. With travelers still leery of airplanes, and most indoor entertainment options closed, many families seem to be embracing a relatively cheap getaway option where the risk of catching the virus is much lower than it is indoors."

But the new visitors, many of whom are new to visiting the parks, are polluting the parks with urine and feces and spraying graffiti on rocks, Chow reports.

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