Images show Joshua Tree National Park trashed during government shutdown

The U.S. government shutdown may be temporarily put on hold, but Joshua Tree National Park — the famed desert in California — is still feeling the pain, and could for years to come.

The 800,000-acre park stayed open during the 35-day partial government shutdown with many visitors taking advantage of the unstaffed entrance to skip the usual $30 fee, according to the National Park Service (NPS).

The road accessing Keys View is closed in Joshua Tree National Park, California, on Jan. 8, 2019.

Visitors drove over trees, toppled gates, camped illegally, defaced rocks with graffiti and left trash and human waste lying around, according to reports.

Before & after #pottypatrol #joshuatreenps #shutdown #cliffhangerguides & #friendsofjosh have teamed up to clean over 50 bathrooms inside JTNP & stock more than 200 rolls of TP. When you wipe think of our government. #volunteers

A post shared by Friends Of Joshua Tree (@joshuatreefriends) on

During the shutdown, NPS had threatened to close the park, after citing sanitation issues. But the park stayed open and officials said they used recreation fees to bring on more staffers to clean toilets and trash.

Some people even volunteered.

Wheelchair-bound Rand Abbott, 55, of Joshua Tree cleans a bathroom stall by himself in Joshua Tree National Park on Jan. 8, 2019, in Joshua Tree, California.

On Friday, U.S. President Trump signed a short-term spending bill that will reopen the government until Feb. 15.

Now staff and volunteers are left cleaning up garbage, wiping off graffiti and replanting trees that were cut down.

A former superintendent at Joshua Tree, Chris Saur, told Business Insider that, “what’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years.”

John Garder, a senior director at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), added that some damage may be permanent.

Staff load trash onto a truck near Joshua Tree National Park in California, Jan. 6, 2019, in this picture obtained from social media.

Trash is seen on the bed of a truck near Joshua Tree National Park in California, Jan. 6, 2019, in this picture obtained from social media.

A sign posted on a Joshua Tree National Park restroom asks for donations towards the clean-up of the park on Thursday.

“Some damage can be repaired, but some things can be lost forever,” Garner told Business Insider, referencing the historical sites that were vandalized and artifacts that were stolen.

The park is known for its rocky landscape and century-old trees, called Joshua Trees, where it gets its name from. Pictures posted to social media showed trees that were chopped down or driven over by cars.

John Lauretig, who runs Friends of Joshua Tree, a nonprofit group that organized a small army of volunteers to help clean the park during the shutdown, told the New York Times that replanting and growing the tree is going to take a long time.

“Because these trees are so big and they grow so slowly, it can take hundreds of years for a tree to mature,” he said. “We say they grow an inch a year, and in a wet year, it might grow five inches or a foot but in a dry year, it might not grow at all.”

A Joshua Tree against rock formation and blue sky at Joshua Tree National Park.

 — With a file from Reuters

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