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Cape Hatteras National Seashore among parks vandalized during government shutdown

The “super moon” struggles to break through the cloud cover behind the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.
The “super moon” struggles to break through the cloud cover behind the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. News & Observer file photo

Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the Outer Banks is among the national parks being vandalized while park staff are on furlough during the partial government shutdown.

The Outer Banks Preservation Association posted an alert about the ongoing damage Thursday on Facebook, warning that the National Park Service could deny the public access if the damage continues.

Examples cited by the post included “human waste outside of the toilet facilities,” torn up National Park Service signs and people driving on restricted beach areas doing “doughnuts in the sand.”

The National Park Service confirmed the incidents to the Charlotte Observer, saying human waste had been found as recently as Thursday outside two restrooms in the park.

“It’s a sad day when I get a request from National Park Service to write a post like this,” said the preservation association’s post. “It matters not who you choose to blame for the government shutdown...The Seashore is open at the superintendent’s discretion only. Let’s not lose access because of stupid behavior.”

Cape Hatteras park Superintendent David Hallac told the Charlotte Observer the “problems have not risen to a level that has caused us to close visitor access areas.”

“The vast majority of visitors have been law abiding and respectful of their public lands at Cape Hatteras National Seashore,” Hallac said in an email to the Observer.

On average, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area sees more than 2 million visitors a year, according to National Park Service data.

Most of the staff at national parks are on furlough as President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats debate funding for enhanced border security, including a consistent barrier along the border with Mexico.

Multiple North Carolina sites have been impacted, including Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout national seashores, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains.

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Other national parks across the country have reported vandalism during the partial government shutdown, including illegal camping and the cutting down of a “protected” Joshua tree at Joshua Tree National Park, according to CNN.

National Parks Traveler reported on Jan. 16 that Death Valley National Park has also seen illegal camping in restricted areas and evidence of drivers “doing donuts in the desert” with their off-road vehicles.

The Outer Banks Preservation Association and North Carolina Beach Buggy Association are among the groups stepping up to help at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the absence of National Park Service staff.

On Jan. 12, the buggy association staged an “emergency” cleanup of beaches on Hatteras Island, using volunteers to pick up trash.

“We had heard stories about other national parks, where there had been a real problem with the trash,” buggy association president Bill Smith told Public Radio for Eastern NC. “We didn’t want to get to that point here.”

VIDEO: Experience the untamed environment along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Climb a lighthouse, charter a deep sea fishing trip, or just relax on unspoiled beaches.

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