The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY MAREK WARSZAWSKI [email protected]­nobee.com

Colum­nist Marek Warszawski says the shut­down com­pli­cates things like us­ing Yosemite re­strooms.

Wel­come to Yosemite Na­tional Park, crown jewel of Amer­ica’s na­tional parks sys­tem. We’re a lit­tle short-staffed these days, so we won’t be col­lect­ing the usual en­trance fee.

Yup, it’s your lucky day. That $35 stays in your wal­let. Un­til the politi­cians back in Washington, D.C., get their act to­gether – and no telling when that’s go­ing to be – ev­ery­body gets in free.

Sounds won­der­ful, right? It is … at least un­til you pull into a road­side turnout and see garbage cans over­flow­ing with trash along with cof­fee cups and candy wrap­pers strewn all over the place.

Sorry, that can’t be helped. Even though our Star­bucks has re­mained open dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down – and ‘tis al­ways the sea­son for venti mochas – the park’s main­te­nance crew is among the 800,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees stuck at home twid­dling their thumbs.

Which means there’s more trash than usual. Our vol­un­teers, well-mean­ing and ded­i­cated as they are, can only do so much. Ex­pect park vis­i­tors to pick up af­ter them­selves or pack out their own lit­ter? That’s a laugh.

I ad­vise keep­ing your eyes off the ground and trained on all those tow­er­ing gran­ite cliffs. The piles of trash may be tall, but they’re not as tall as El Cap­i­tan. Yet.

What’s that? Your kids need to go to the bath­room? Oh, boy. I mean, OK. That does present a lit­tle bit of a chal­lenge, since our vis­i­tors cen­ters and most of the la­trines are closed, as well.

A cou­ple re­main open – look for the long line of peo­ple near Lower Yosemite or Bri­dalveil Falls – but they haven’t been ser­viced in awhile, leav­ing them dirty and smelling pretty gross. Tell them to take a deep breath be­fore go­ing in.

If they need to go Num­ber One, it’s re­ally not a big deal to walk a lit­tle ways into the for­est and find a suit­able tree. Even a dead one will do. But please

don’t use that strat­egy for Num­ber Two. Not un­less you brought a shovel and are pre­pared to dig a hole, at least 2 feet deep, to bury the poop and used TP.

That ask­ing too much? Well, sorry. Then tell him to hold it un­til you get back to Mari­posa.

What about Oakhurst? Un­for­tu­nately, you can’t get there dur­ing the shut­down. We had to close up the south­ern en­trance from High­way 41, ex­cept to those with reser­va­tions to one of our lodges with the generic, trade­mark law­suit-ap­proved names. Gotta keep some of the money flow­ing in.

Yeah, that sucks for peo­ple liv­ing in Fresno or those wish­ing to go to Bad­ger Pass … err, the Yosemite Ski & Snow­board Area. It can’t be helped. Un­cle Sam has our purses tied.

You think it’s bad here? Don’t bother vis­it­ing our sis­ter parks to the south, Se­quoia and Kings Canyon. The crowds and dirty con­di­tions got so bad that rangers there barred the gated and are re­fus­ing to let any­one in. That is, un­less you’re headed to one of the Chris­tian camps at Hume Lake. Then it’s OK to pass through, for some rea­son that’s well be­yond my pay grade.

Who’s at fault, you ask? That de­pends on your po­lit­i­cal lean­ings.

If you think Pres­i­dent Trump is a swell guy and agree whole­heart­edly that we need $5 bil­lion to build a wall to keep out all the un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, even though most of them get here by plane, then blame the Democrats. By all means. It’s your right.

But if you re­call Trump say­ing a cou­ple weeks ago, dur­ing a tete-a-tete with Con­gres­sional lead­ers Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, that he is “proud to shut down the gov­ern­ment,” “will take the man­tle,” and “I’m not go­ing to blame you for it” then you’ll likely form a dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion.

Yes, I re­al­ize Trump says the ex­act op­po­site on Twit­ter. Do you ex­pect the pres­i­dent of the United States to be con­sis­tent?

Ei­ther way, Yosemite and all the na­tional parks are just pieces in a po­lit­i­cal game of check­ers. You think it’s just co­in­ci­dence Trump made his first ap­pear­ance in the White House me­dia brief­ing room on the same day Pelosi be­came speaker of the House?

While trash and poop may be the most vis­i­ble signs of the shut­down, there are other ram­i­fi­ca­tions. School kids can’t go on field trips and at­tend out­doors pro­grams. Re­searchers can’t study ecosys­tem changes and mon­i­tor wildlife. And with­out those en­trance fees, the de­ferred main­te­nance tab con­tin­ues to grow.

In times such as this, Amer­ica’s best idea is held hostage by our own worst ten­den­cies – both po­lit­i­cal and hu­man.

Once again, wel­come to Yosemite. Hope you en­joy your free visit.

PAUL KITAGAKI JR. pkita­[email protected]

Signs alert vis­i­tors that parts of Yosemite Na­tional Park are closed. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down is keep­ing Yosemite work­ers at home.

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