JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK — Joshua Tree National Park, home to some of the region’s most spectacular hiking trails, will not close at 8 a.m. today, Thursday, Jan. 10, as originally announced.

In an 11th-hour move, the National Park Service announced via a News Release that it will keep Joshua Tree National Park open by using fee-generated money to thwart the temporary closure.

In addition, recently closed areas of the park will once again be accessible to visitors starting today, Jan. 10. Some visitor services, including campgrounds and entrance stations, will reopen utilizing recreation fee revenue,” the park service said in a news release.

It said that areas recently closed due to staffing and maintenance issues will reopen on Thursday as well. These include all campgrounds; Stirrup Tank Road; Lost Horse Mine Road and Trail; Key’s View Road; and the Rattlesnake Canyon Picnic Area and Road.

Park service officials said in the news release that by using Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement funds to restart park maintenance and address sanitation issues, “the park will be able to maintain some visitor services, including reopening the campgrounds.”

Staff will be enlisted to ensure “protection of park resources and mitigate some of the damage that has occurred” during the partial federal government shutdown, according to officials. Entrance stations will be open to provide safety and resource protection messages to arriving visitors, but entrance fees and camping fees will not be collected.

Outdoor areas of Joshua Tree National Park will remain accessible. Most facilities will remain closed. The four National Park Service visitor centers will remain closed.

Park officials praised volunteers who provided basic sanitation services at campgrounds and other closed areas during the partial federal government shutdown. “Their efforts have contributed significantly to the reopening of campgrounds and restoring access to other closed areas of Joshua Tree National Park,” the news release said.

In advance of the proposed temporary shutdown, park officials had been identifying the additional staff and resources needed to address immediate maintenance and sanitation issues. They had already planned to use money from the park fees to address those issues per the recently updated National Park Service contingency plan during a lapse in appropriations.

The federal government shut down early Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 after congressional and White House officials failed to reach a compromise on a spending bill that was tied to President Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico.

Trump has said he’s prepared for a “very long” shutdown. If the shutdown continues until Saturday, Jan. 12, it will break the record for longest government shutdown in history.

The previous longest shutdown, starting in December 1995, lasted 21 days. A 21-day government shutdown in 1995 and 1996 during President Clinton’s administration was the longest.

It is the third shutdown in two years of Republican control in the nation’s capital.

The shutdown is affecting about 800,000 federal employees and some services for the public, including some at Joshua Tree National Park, the New York Times reported. 

Joshua Tree National Park is a vast protected area in southern California. It’s characterized by rugged rock formations and stark desert landscapes. Named for the region’s twisted, bristled Joshua trees, the park straddles the cactus-dotted Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert, which is higher and cooler. Keys View looks out over the Coachella Valley. Hiking trails weave through the boulders of Hidden Valley.

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, according to a news release. Law enforcement rangers will continue to patrol the park and enforce the closure until park staff complete the necessary cleanup and park protection measures.

The communities near Joshua Tree National Park have provided significant assistance and support to the park, and park officials hope to restore visitor access to the park as quickly as possible to mitigate any negative impact to the local economy.