Recycling is stuffed into a bin at Lands End in San Francisco on Jan. 5, 2018. Reps. Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman gathered with volunteers to collect trash at Lands End and Ocean Beach during the government shutdown. Michelle Wiley/KQED
Recycling is stuffed into a bin at Lands End in San Francisco on Jan. 5, 2018. Reps. Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman gathered with volunteers to collect trash at Lands End and Ocean Beach during the government shutdown. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

Locals Pick Up the Slack (and the Trash) as Government Shutdown Continues

Locals Pick Up the Slack (and the Trash) as Government Shutdown Continues

As the government shutdown enters its third week, Bay Area residents — and their congressional representatives — are taking it upon themselves to keep the region's national parks clean.

Reps. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, on Saturday gathered with volunteers from the San Francisco Dog Owners group to pick up trash at Lands End and Ocean Beach, just two of the numerous federally-run sites in the region that are without staff during the shutdown.

"This is basically citizens standing up and saying, 'If you guys can't do it yourselves because of the shutdown, we will definitely help clean up the parks,' " said Sally Stephens, who chairs the dog owner's group.

Waste — both human and artificial — has caused closures at national parks across California, including Kings Canyon, Sequoia and parts of Yosemite. The shutdown has also delayed the investigation into the Christmas Day drowning death of a man at Yosemite.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who lobbied for the national parks to stay open during the shutdown before leaving his post on Wednesday, told the Associated Press that visitors should "grab a trash bag and take some trash out."

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For the past several days, San Francisco Public Works has added emptying and cleaning up around trash bins at Lands End, Aquatic Park and Fort Funston to their regular routes.

"We're going to do what we can," said Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon. "We do have other challenges in San Francisco to keep the streets clean, but we have no plans to stop helping out on these parklands as the shutdown continues."

A Recology truck helps haul away trash collected at Ocean Beach.
A Recology truck helps haul away trash collected at Ocean Beach. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

According to Gordon, the extra work might mean it takes employees longer to get to their regular duties, but they will still get done. Gordon said they haven't added any extra crews and are keeping track of the time it takes them to do these additional tasks.

Volunteers say that since Public Works got involved last Wednesday, the condition at the parks has improved somewhat.

"But it shouldn't be city workers, it shouldn't be community members who just can't stand the denigration of their national park," Rep. Huffman said. "It should be folks who are paid to do this work and ready to do this work, and we should open the government so they can do it."

Huffman and Speier gathered the trash they collected at Lands End into two bins labeled "Trump's Trash." They say they plan to bring the trash to Washington D.C. and deposit it at the White House.

Reps. Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman stand with trash collected at Lands End and Ocean Beach on Jan. 5, 2018, during the government shutdown. They say the will be delivering the trash to President Trump.
Reps. Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman stand with trash collected at Lands End and Ocean Beach on Jan. 5, 2018, during the government shutdown. They say the will be delivering the trash to President Trump. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

"It is a stunt!" Speier admitted. "We're doing a stunt to equal President Trump's stunt."

"I'll tell you what's not a stunt," Huffman added. "It's the diapers and the coffee cups and the burrito wrappers and the trash that's piling up in [National] Park Service facilities all over this country because of what President Trump has done. His actions have real-world consequences."

Some sites run by the National Park Service have been able to stay operational during the shutdown thanks to agreements with private companies or outside organizations. Alcatraz remains open, and Muir Woods will be open through Sunday, before closing indefinitely on Monday, Jan. 7.

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