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Three national park deaths as they struggle to stay open and safe during government shutdown

At least three deaths have occurred at the national parks that have remained open amid the government shutdown and workers admit even an investigation into one of the incidents has been drastically slowed due to a lack of workers. 

Yosemite National Park in California reported Friday that a man died after falling into a river on Christmas Day, and 10 days later, a spokesman said why a statement was not issued more promptly and the probe is taking longer than usual.

The man apparently slipped down Silver Apron, a large, sloping granite area above Nevada Fall, and suffered a head injury, government spokesman Andrew Munoz said.

Rangers responding to a 911 call arrived on scene in less than an hour and pulled the man, who has not been identified, from the water. 

The Texas tourist who came across the man who was bleeding from his ears, and his dog who was also bleeding, said it took a while to get him from the water without a stretcher.

A man died after falling into a river at Yosemite National Park on Christmas Day when he slipped at Silver Apron above Nevada Fall (pictured March 2016)

Visitors are advised not to bring pets on trails due to the danger risk they pose. 

‘Medical attention was provided to the visitor, but he died from his injuries,’ Munoz said.

This week, the park announced new access limitations and several closed areas within the park because of problems with human waste, damage to resources and other public safety concerns during the shutdown. 

It was confirmed the man was not in a closed area when he fell but more details could not be revealed until the investigation was complete. 

A similar incident had happened with a man in the area in the past year, during which at least 10 people have died in the park the size of Rhode Island.

Crowds have been driving into the park to take advantage of free admission as the shutdown coincided with the holiday. 

Nonprofits, businesses and state governments nationwide are putting up money and volunteer hours in a battle to keep national parks safe and clean for visitors as the partial US government shutdown lingers.

A nonprofit donated more than $50,000 to keep 15 rangers temporarily on the job at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. But a mother died on the Porter Creek Trail in Tennessee after being hit by a falling tree last Thursday

A nonprofit donated more than $50,000 to keep 15 rangers temporarily on the job at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. But a mother died on the Porter Creek Trail in Tennessee after being hit by a falling tree last Thursday

One nonprofit donated more than $50,000 to keep 15 rangers temporarily on the job at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. But it’s where a mother died on the Porter Creek Trail in Tennessee after being struck by a falling tree in high winds last Thursday.

Laila Jiwani, 42, a mother-of-two, was with her six-year-old son who she left behind. He suffered a broken leg.

On Christmas Eve, a 14-year-old girl ran from her parents’ car to see Glen Canyon’s Horseshoe Bend Overlook in Utah and when they couldn’t find her, they contacted authorities around 5pm.

Her body was located before dark 700 feet off the cliff but it meant it could not be retrieved until the following day according to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. 

Law enforcement must remain on duty during the shutdown.

Support groups say donations of money and time could run short if the budget impasse between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats lasts much longer. 

A girl, 14, fell to her death on Christmas Eve at Glen Canyon's Horseshoe Bend Overlook, Utah 

A girl, 14, fell to her death on Christmas Eve at Glen Canyon’s Horseshoe Bend Overlook, Utah 

Some are calling for parks to close for the duration of the standoff, which Trump said Friday could last ‘months or even years’.

‘Our national parks deserve better than an improvised patchwork of emergency care,’ Diane Regas, CEO of the Trust for Public Lands, said in a letter to Trump that noted reports of theft, poaching and accumulating piles of garbage and human waste. ‘They need robust funding and full-time protection, or they should be closed.’

Ryan Zinke, who recently stepped down under fire as Interior Department secretary, had ordered many national parks to stay open, saying visitors should not be penalized for the political feud over a border wall with Mexico. During an interview with The Associated Press, Zinke said visitors should take action to keep parks clean.

‘Grab a trash bag and take some trash out with you,’ he said. ‘In order to keep them open, everybody has to pitch in.’

The park service has reached deals with more than 60 partner groups, concessionaires and states to handle trash removal, restroom cleanup and other basic tasks at more than 40 parks – and, in a few cases, to keep park staffers on the job, spokesman Jeremy Barnum said Friday.

A donation box sits on the counter as Dany Garcia speaks with visitors at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in Everglades National Park on Friday in Homestead, Florida

A donation box sits on the counter as Dany Garcia speaks with visitors at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in Everglades National Park on Friday in Homestead, Florida

People living near Yosemite have organized work crews, while businesses in neighboring towns are offering incentives for visitors to remove their rubbish. 

Yosemite visitors on Saturday received garbage bags and tips on how best to use the park during the shutdown, courtesy of the Tuolumne County Visitors’ Bureau. One recommendation: ‘Go before you go,’ a reference to the limited number of open bathrooms, executive director Lisa Mayo said. 

The state of New York was footing the bill to operate the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island National Monument, while a private company donated portable toilets at several locations on the National Mall in Washington DC, The National Park Foundation took charge of repairing and operating the National Christmas Tree.

At Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, volunteers have hauled away garbage, cleaned restrooms and restocked them with toilet paper, said John Lauretig, executive director of Friends of Joshua Tree.

‘We’ve been dubbed the ‘Toilet Paper Angels,’ he said.

The Rush Creek Lodge in Groveland gave a complimentary coffee, cocktail or dessert to all bringing a full trash bag from the park. Spokeswoman Teri Marshall said the lodge was trying to devise a slogan for the promotion.

‘Turning garbage into goodies’ is where I think I might be hanging our hat,’ Marshall said.

A visitor reads information on Friday as Everglades National Park runs on minimal resources

A visitor reads information on Friday as Everglades National Park runs on minimal resources

Grand Canyon National Park is open with help from Arizona, which was paying about $64,000 a week to cover restroom cleaning, trash removal and snow plowing. Anyone with permits to hike in the backcountry or raft on the Colorado River could go, but the park wasn’t issuing new permits, spokeswoman Emily Davis said.

Utah chipped in about $7,500 a day from December 22 to 31 to keep Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches national parks running. Since then, the nonprofit Zion Forever Project has committed $16,000 to keep a skeleton crew on hand and the bathrooms and visitor center open at Zion, which was drawing several thousand people a day, executive director Lyman Hafen said.

‘It’s extremely demoralizing for the park service folks who want to be doing their job and caring for the park the way they do,’ Hafen said.

Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park raised $114,000 to keep the park for open for nine days with limited service, executive director Elizabeth Fien said. The money was used to pay law enforcement staff and rangers, including one who monitors endangered nene, or Hawaiian goose.

The Death Valley Natural History Association said it would pay to keep the visitor center at Death Valley National Park open until at least Thursday. Winter is a busy time at the park straddling the California-Nevada line, drawing visitors to its salt flats, dunes and canyons when the usual scorching temperatures are at bay.

A support group for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in northern Michigan was cleaning toilets and grooming a popular trail for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. But snow-covered parking lots weren’t plowed, and the visitors center near Lake Michigan was closed, leaving the volunteer group to consider putting up an information tent.

‘A lot of people who go to the park are looking for advice about where to go – what areas are good for snowshoeing and which might be dangerous, and there’s no one here to tell them,’ said Kerry Kelly, the group’s chairman. ‘It’s extremely frustrating.’

Visitors look at the scenery outside of the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in Everglades Park. As the shutdown drags on, private organizations, local businesses, volunteers and state governments are putting up the money and manpower to keep national parks open

Visitors look at the scenery outside of the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in Everglades Park. As the shutdown drags on, private organizations, local businesses, volunteers and state governments are putting up the money and manpower to keep national parks open

Another nonprofit was paying a private company to clean portable toilets near two popular trailheads at Shenandoah National Park, which includes a 101-mile (163-kilometer) section of the Appalachian Trail.

Some parks have closed, including Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, where a snowstorm made roads impassable. Park officials posted on Twitter that the shutdown left no money for snowplowing. In California, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park has closed and Muir Woods National Monument will shut down Monday because of overflowing trash and human waste.

At the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida’s Everglades, no rangers were available to empty a metal tube where visitors deposit $5 entry fees on the honor system. 

After a canoe rental company notified authorities, officers with the US Fish and Wildlife Service emptied the cash box and were monitoring it as part of their limited operations.

Conservation groups warned that volunteers could provide only a minimum level of service. Without full-time, professional staffing, natural resources and cultural artifacts could be damaged and people could be injured, they said.

‘The political pressure to keep the parks open needs to come off so managers can evaluate what they’re capable of protecting and whether they can keep visitors safe,’ said Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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