Winter break is always busy in Death Valley National Park, one of the largest parks in the country, as visitors arrive from all over to escape cold winter temperatures and explore the remarkable wilderness. This winter was no exception — tens of thousands of people passed through the park in late December and early January. But this period was unlike any other park staff had faced as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history led to “increased lawlessness” across Death Valley, according to documents obtained by ThinkProgress.
“The shutdown happened going into two extremely busy week[s] of the park’s busiest weeks of the entire year. Consequently, incidents were quickly compounded,” one document, released via a freedom of information request, summarized.
The documents refer repeatedly to trash and feces littering the park. They also describe numerous instances of vandalism and vehicles off-roading, doing damaging donuts in the fragile desert landscape. Some of the repairs may take days or weeks to fix, others may impact the park for generations.