State and National Parks Were Closed Down

Bags of trash are accumulating in a National Park with nobody to pick them up
Artwork by Anthony Faust
Bags of trash are accumulating in a National Park with nobody to pick them up

At the beginning of the pandemic, people were stuck home and a ton of businesses were shutting down. People needed fresh air and exercise and were looking for ways to support social distancing as the coronavirus spread across the United States. One of the best ways to do this was to take advantage of the United States’ most treasured assets, our National Parks.


On March 18, 2020, the Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt sent out a directive to the National Park Service to waive entrance fees of parks that remained open. “This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible National Parks,” he said. This was a very noble reaction by a government official to reduce the barriers for citizens to visit the beautiful parks. However, the good feeling didn’t last long.


The CDC and state and local public health official applied pressure, and soon enough, the National Park Service changed their policy and operations at many parks. Most of the public buildings, including visitor centers and bathroom facilities, were completely shut down. There are 62 national parks operated by the National Park Service, and most of them were highly impacted and experienced closures of some sort.


Of the most popular national parks, the level of disruption varied. Some were completely shut down. Some were accessible but all core services such as restrooms, campgrounds, visitor centers and main trails were shut down. In short, even if the park had areas that were “open”, it wasn’t a welcoming environment.


The biggest problem with shutting down services within the National Parks while still allowing visitors, was the waste left behind. The National Park Services has always urged visitors to practice Leave No Trace principles—like pack-in and pack-out—to keep the parks clean and safe for everyone. Many people went to the parks and used the areas where they could, but many visitors didn’t practice these guidelines. Without facilities open, and lack of services to collect waste and monitor regulations, many of the National Parks were left with litter, human waste, and graffiti, which polluted our nation’s gems. Unfortunately, this was not a great look for our country’s citizens.

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About the Author

My life as a husband and father transformed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sent home from work in March 2020, I've yet to return to the office. Adapting to the new pandemic world proved challenging for us all.

However, we managed to find silver linings. Drive-by birthdays brought joy to my kids' friends. I'll never forget stumbling upon a heartfelt hand-painted rock during my jog, reminding us that we're all in this together. Regular Zoom happy hours with close friends created cherished memories.

While quality time with my family was a blessing, we also faced hurdles. Assisting my youngest daughter with frustrating math homework on a poorly designed iPad app tested our patience. Both girls struggled with wearing masks during sports and school.

Sadly, witnessing COVID-19 being politicized and witnessing the closure of small businesses while the wealthy thrived was disheartening.

I wrote this book to document our experiences, learning from them and striving for better decisions in the future. Join me on this rewarding journey of resilience and growth.

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