Joshua Tree National Park was set to close indefinitely as of 8 am Thursday morning, to deal with accumulating issues since the government shutdown began more than three weeks ago.  While campgrounds have been closed to visitors, with little to no law enforcement presence, people have skirted regulations, camping in illegal areas, and, unfortunately, cutting down protected Joshua trees. Impromptu roads through virgin desert have been discovered as people have driven to favored camping areas that don’t normally allow vehicles.

Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent David Smith, who announced the closure earlier this week, had no idea when the park would re-open to visitors. “The park will be closed until I can ensure that resources inside the park are protected,” Smith said.

But NPS officials announced, just hours before the park was set to close, they will employ Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement funds to keep the park open, but, more importantly, to staff the park with maintenance crews to deal with garbage overflows, and to help protect park resources.

“The park is open. And we are opening all the campgrounds,” NPS Ranger Duane Vigar told the San Bernardino County Sun, which has more on the situation, here.