Volunteers Still Picking Up Park Trash After End of Government Shutdown
Updated Monday, 4:15 p.m.
The partial federal government shutdown might be over, but volunteers are still taking it upon themselves to cleanup the Bay Area's federal parklands, many of which have been unattended and uncleaned by paid workers for more than a month.
"For 35 days federal employees haven't been able to take care of our public lands, and we need to get out there," said Annie Burke, a Berkeley resident who helped organize #ShutdownCleanup, a Facebook group and Google spreadsheet that asked people to report conditions at their local parks and beaches during the shutdown.
Burke said the goal of #ShutdownCleanup was to "crowdsource information about the conditions and then help regular citizens to get out there and help cleanup."
According to Burke, Muir Beach and Stinson Beach in Marin County, as well as Aquatic Park and Fort Mason in San Francisco are in the greatest need of cleanup this weekend.
"Just because the government opens temporarily doesn't mean that hundreds of federal employees jump right back and are able to do all the things they've been supposed to be doing for four-plus weeks," Burke said.
While President Trump on Friday was announcing his agreement with congressional Democrats to fund the government through Feb. 15, volunteers like Christina Toms were still out picking up trash at local parks.
"There were two trash cans here that were close to overflowing, full of lots of gross stuff," said Toms, a wetland scientist who cleaned up Tennessee Valley and Rodeo Beach in Marin after visiting the #ShutdownCleanup Facebook page.
The state of the region's federal parklands was one of the most visible consequences of the 35-day shutdown that forced around 800,000 federal workers to stay home or work without pay, including those tasked with maintaining the Bay Area's federal parks.
Unlike during some previous shutdowns, the Trump administration chose to keep most national parks open in the early days of this budget standoff, despite a lack of staffing. That started to change as many parks faced vandalism, excessive waste and visitor safety issues, forcing them to close. Other parks were able to stay open thanks to community or corporate funding.
Throughout the shutdown, local residents, organizations and even elected officials participated in cleanups on the federally-operated sites, and San Francisco Public Works directed its staff to help empty trash bins at some parks and beaches.
Burke said she plans to continue using #ShutdownCleanup to mobilize people who want to keep the region's parklands clean.
"The impacts continue," Burke said of the shutdown. "It's not like some light goes on and everything is fine."
When Are Parks Reopening?
A note on the National Park Service website on Saturday said that it was "preparing to resume regular operations though the schedule for individual parks may vary depending on staff size and complexity of operations."
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area announced Monday that all of its sites had "resumed regularly scheduled operations" and that all areas of the GGNRA, Muir Woods National Monument and Fort Point National Historic Site are open for regular operations.
According to Park Superintendent Tom Leatherman, staff at the following sites will return to work on Monday and assess the state of the parks ahead of reopening:
Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park
John Muir National Historic Site
Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial
"None of my staff have been on, so we have to make sure the sites are safe and any issues with the resources in the parks are being addressed," Leatherman said in an email on Saturday.
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park
Aquatic Park has been open throughout the shutdown, but the rest of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park — including its piers and historic ships — have been closed. Park Superintendent Kevin Hendricks said the visitors center reopened on Sunday, and staff are taking Sunday and Monday to assess the state of the park.
"We believe we'll have Hyde Street Pier open for visitors starting Monday," Hendricks said. "Not yet the ships though unfortunately. We'll be working on getting the various different ships ready for visitors as the week progresses."
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore reopened Sunday at 9 a.m.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
KQED Science reporter Hannah Hagemann contributed to this post.