The destruction of signature trees and driving off-road during the partial government shutdown have led park officials to believe that it could take 300 years for Joshua Tree National Park to fully recover.
Earlier this month the park, which is located in Southern California, temporarily shut down.
Closure of the vast desert park allowed staff to address sanitation, safety and resource protection issues that have occurred since the government shutdown on December 22.
‘While the vast majority of those who visit Joshua Tree National Park do so in a responsible manner, there have been incidents of new roads being created by motorists and the destruction of Joshua trees in recent days that have precipitated the closure,’ the National Park Service said earlier this month.
The statement did not describe the extent of damage to the crazy-limbed trees with clusters of green spikes.
The park’s former superintendent, Curt Sauer, told Business Insider: ‘What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years.’
John Garder, a senior director at the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), also told Business Insider that some damage may be permanent.
‘Some damage can be repaired, but some things can be lost forever,’ Garner said. Garner said there is concern that historical sites were vandalized.
Like other national parks, Joshua Tree remained accessible despite the government shutdown and problems of human waste, trash and damage began to occur as staffing was cut and visitor centers closed.