Though the partial US government shutdown has left some national parks scrambling to maintain their lands and facilities, hundreds of civilians are stepping up to care for the public lands of their own accord.
In Tennessee, a father-daughter duo has been tackling the litter left behind on the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
With park services lacking funding to keep parks clean, Marc Newland and his 10-year-old daughter Erica have spent their days hiking the mountain trails with trash bags in hand so they can pick up litter along the way.
The Newlands have always been avid hikers, but when Marc told his daughter about how the shutdown would affect the mountain park, she suggested that they take it upon themselves to keep the trails tidy.
“Erica says that she would like to challenge other hikers to take one day off from getting in miles and impressive vista pics and instead, give back by grabbing a trash bag, heading to the park and collecting some litter!!” Mark wrote in a post to the Hike the Smokies Facebook page. “These mountains give so much to so many people. Imagine if only a fraction of those people decided to give back to the mountains.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of Muslim men volunteering with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association have been picking up trash in parks and public spaces across the nation – from the Everglades in Florida to the National Mall in Washington DC.
More than a dozen young men with @MuslimYouthUSA are cleaning up Independence Mall today in pouring rain. They say they are doing their part in helping amid government shutdown. pic.twitter.com/xxTvyubo9W— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) January 5, 2019
The group recently made headlines for their early morning clean-up of the trash left behind by New Year’s Eve festivities. According to a press release from Dr. Madeel Abdullah, the president of youth group, “service to our nation and cleanliness are important parts of Islam.
“We could not sit idly by as our national parks collected trash,” he added. “We will lead by example and dispose of this garbage appropriately and invite all Americans to join us in these parks and others across the nation.”
This is not the first time that the group has volunteered their services, either. With over 5,000 members of various ages, the organization has reportedly logged over 200,000 hours of public service since 2016.
In addition to individuals lending a hand, dozens of small businesses located in proximity to Yellowstone National Park have all chipped in thousands of dollars to keep the park open and tidy during the winter tourist season.
With the breathtaking scenery blanketed in snow, the park is visited by over 20,000 tourists every month. Since many of these travelers had already planned their wintery expeditions months in advance, local tour guide services, snow mobile rentals, and park resorts volunteered to split the costs of paying park rangers to keep bathrooms and park lands clean.
“I mean it’s not cheap [for these families],” one snowmobile guide told NPR. “They had to plan and budget for this, and to all of a sudden get the carpet ripped out from underneath them, I think is not fair.
“[The park] should be open, and services should be there, because it is the people’s park,” he added, saying that he was happy to help keep the park open until the park received funding once more.
There are other smaller efforts underway to help keep the parks clean as well. According to the Washington Post, a team of 40 volunteers have been cleaning toilets, restocking toilet paper, and recovering trash throughout Joshua Tree National Park. Another group of civilians is maintaining Yosemite National Park.
While none of these efforts can replace the full force of the National Parks services, the volunteer-led initiatives show that Americans will always be willing to take care of its lands and communities when adversity arises.
Clean Up Negativity By Sharing The Good news With Your Friends On Social Media – Photo by Marc Newland