After Saying Joshua Tree Might Stay Closed Until Shutdown Ends, Officials Announce It Will Reopen by End of Week

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A week after closing its campgrounds to the public, Joshua Tree National Park will temporarily close on Thursday for cleanup and to repair some of the damage caused by visitors during the partial government shutdown, officials said.

The 1,200-square-mile park will be shut down beginning at 8 a.m. so staff can address sanitation and safety issues, according to statement posted Tuesday on the National Park Service's website.

Earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported the temporary closure could extend until the end of the shutdown, which has entered its third week. But officials later estimated that the park will reopen by the end of the week, according to the paper.

Officials previously said they planned to restore accessibility and limited basic services within the coming days. They indicated they hoped to have it reopened soon, however.

"Park officials hope to restore visitor access to the park as quickly as possible to mitigate any negative impact to the local economy," the statement read.

"The way it looks right now because of resources or lack thereof, we have about eight rangers that oversee a large park, we will remain closed until appropriations are put into place to reopen," spokesman George Land told the newspaper early Tuesday.

With few rangers on hand, the park has been plagued with sanitation issues, among them human waste in public areas, according to the statement. Visitors have also littered the park with trash, destroyed its namesake Joshua trees and created their own roads.

Law enforcement rangers will remain on patrol and ensure visitors stay out during the cleanup, and until protection measures are in place.

The full closure comes less than a week after the campgrounds were shut down amid health and safety concerns stemming in part from near-capacity vault toilets. The campgrounds will remain closed through the duration of the government shutdown, officials said.

Joshua Tree National Park is located about 130 miles east of Los Angeles.

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