News & Updates

5 Tips for Responsibly Visiting Parks During the Shutdown

Susy Alkaitis - January 2, 2019

Frostburg, MD: While we’re bummed the government is shut down, we’re glad that many of our national parks and other public lands have remained open to the public. The trouble is, almost all park workers are furloughed, and facilities are locked. If you can’t wait for the shutdown to end before visiting, check out our five hacks for how to responsibly visit parks during the shutdown.

1. Have a Poop Plan! Facilities locked, remember? All of a sudden, even day users need to be aware of how to dispose of their (ahem) human waste properly. You can “’go’ before you go,” but the coffee I drank on the way to our recent shutdown trip to Shenandoah National Park … you get the drift. There are two good options: first, you can bury your poop in a 6”-8” cathole, at least 70 big steps from water and trail (remember to pack a small trowel), and either pack out your TP or bury it deep within your cathole. Second, you can bring a personal, portable toilet – clean, easy, and fast. Available at many local outdoor stores and here.

2. Be ready to pack EVERYTHING out. We’ve all become accustomed to having trash cans at trailheads and other day-use areas, but with no one coming to empty these receptacles, your best bet is to bring that trash home with you. FYI – the garbage burden on the often small local communities around our national parks is huge – consider taking your trash home with you as a matter of course even after the government opens back up.

3. Be ready for Wilderness! No rangers on patrol – roads blocked by fallen trees – bridges washed out. You should check a park’s “shutdown” page before visiting for closures and other relevant issues, but know that this is now old information, and things may have changed (likely for the worse). Let someone know where you’re going, and bring your ten outdoor essentials.

4. Channel your Inner Ranger. Park staff might not be watching, but everyone else is, so model responsible visitor behavior. Park rules are in place to help protect our parks. Camping when there’s “No Camping” or building fires in a “No Fires” area can cause long-lasting damage. Hopefully the shutdown will end soon – don’t create scars that last far longer.

5. Give Back. Open parks during a shutdown means free entry, which is nice. But if you can afford it, consider making a donation to your park’s friends’ group or foundation, or look for opportunities to volunteer when your park’s open again. Parks are going to need all the help they can get to recover when their budgets are already at the breaking point.

Enjoy Your World and “Leaf” No Trace,

Jessie and Matt

Leave No Trace’s Jessie Johnson and Matt Schneider are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, and Klean Kanteen.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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