Tree-men­dous grief

Hordes dev­as­tate Calif. park in shut­down

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY ALLYSON CHIU

In most de­pic­tions, Joshua trees tower above the earth. Feath­ery-look­ing limbs topped with spiky green leaves twist sky­ward, com­plet­ing the gan­gly suc­cu­lents’ strik­ing ap­pear­ance.

But now, vi­ral pho­tos of these pro­tected trees show a vastly dif­fer­ent scene un­fold­ing at Joshua Tree Na­tional Park, about 130 miles east of Los An­ge­les.

The trees in the pho­tos have been felled and are ly­ing on the dusty ground — and Park Ser­vice of­fi­cials say peo­ple are to blame.

Shared widely on so­cial me­dia, the pho­tos have sparked out­rage over the plight of na­tional parks that re­main open amid a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down, leav­ing them un­der­staffed and vul­ner­a­ble to the an­tics of un­ruly vis­i­tors.

In the course of the shut­down, con­di­tions at Joshua Tree Na­tional Park have wors­ened, prompt­ing Park Ser­vice of­fi­cials to sched­ule a tem­po­rary clo­sure to “al­low park staff to ad­dress san­i­ta­tion, safety, and re­source pro­tec­tion is­sues in the park that have arisen dur­ing the lapse in ap­pro­pri­a­tions.”

The park spans more than 1,200 square miles, strad­dling the Mo­jave Desert and Colorado Desert, but only eight law-en­force­ment rangers are pa­trolling the land­scape in the shut­down, Na­tional Parks Trav­eler, a non­profit ded­i­cated to news about na­tional parks, re­ported.

Joshua Tree Su­per­in­ten­dent David Smith told the non­profit that vis­i­tors have been il­le­gally off-road­ing, cut­ting down trees and spray-paint­ing rocks, among other in­frac­tions.

Rand Ab­bott, a res­i­dent of the town of Joshua Tree, has fre­quented the park since the 1980s, and said see­ing the dam­aged trees was “dev­as­tat­ing.”

“The true is­sue is that peo­ple ... think that they own the park,” the 55-year-old said. “They don’t own it. They’re guests in the park.”

BRAD SUT­TON/NA­TIONAL PARK SER­VICE

A Joshua tree is sil­hou­et­ted at the Cal­i­for­nia park where some of the pro­tected trees have been felled or dam­aged.

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