Because government employees in charge of maintaining the facilities are currently furloughed, trash is overflowing from cans at trailheads in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and many restrooms are closed.
The employees are not working because Congress and the Trump Administration failed to broker a deal to fund the federal government on Friday, Dec. 21. The impasse led to an ongoing partial government shutdown since Saturday, Dec. 22.
The scenic area is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, and while rangers are not patrolling the area during the shutdown, Gorge trails remain open.
Maegan Jossy, outreach manager for Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, offered tips to hike responsibly during the closure.
"I think just be a bit more prepared than normal — there aren't as many amenities," Jossy said. "Don't leave any garbage. If you're going to go, pack a garbage bag, and know how to use a poop trowel. There are a lot of things that people don't think about, but things are a little different right now."
While the shutdown didn't close trails in the Gorge, some hiking paths remain closed because of lingering effects from the Eagle Creek Fire, which started on Sept. 2, 2017, after a 15-year-old Washington boy threw fireworks into the Eagle Creek Canyon. The fire raged to consume more than 48,000 acres.
Jossy encouraged hikers who don't want to take the extra preparation steps to search for paths outside the Gorge. Trails maintained by state, county or city governments are still running as usual.
But if hikers have their minds set on exploring the Gorge, they can minimize their impact by adhering to proper hiking etiquette.
"That's a good ethic anyway, but this situation is making it more necessary," Jossy said.
Friends of the Gorge and Trailkeepers of Oregon offered advice for visitors hiking in the Gorge during the government shutdown:Pack everything out, and have a poop plan. Be back-country ready. Carry hiking essentials, no rangers are on patrol, and let somebody know where you're headed. Consider exploring state, county, or city parks instead of federal lands.
Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Gorge.
Trailkeepers of Oregon is a nonprofit hiking organization that has been restoring trails in the Gorge since the outbreak of the Eagle Creek Fire in September 2017.
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