Dana Hedgpeth reports:
Day 4 of the federal government shutdown is bringing an unwanted – and unsightly – look in areas around the Mall and near national monuments in Washington.
Trash cans are overflowing along the Mall, officials said, as workers for the National Park Service are furloughed, and there’s virtually no one to empty them.
Of the roughly 300 employees who help manage and run the Mall – all but six are furloughed, according to Mike Litterst, acting chief spokesman for the park service.
“That’s the people who empty trash and cut grass and make the area look like the public expects it to look – inviting and well-maintained, just aren’t there,” he said.
Pizza boxes, empty water bottles and half eaten donuts filled one trash can on a sidewalk near the World War II memorial.
“It certainly is unsightly in areas that are as pristine as the monuments and memorials,” Litterst said. Not to mention, he said, the “health effects” and “what [overflowing trash cans] can draw in terms of pests, insects and rodents.”
The trash problem is especially acute in Washington where so many of the monuments and malls are open, making it especially hard for officials to keep people from using them.
“D.C. is an urban area,” Litterst said. “We can’t fence it and close it off. At Yellowstone, you close the gates and nobody can get in.”
“We haven’t fenced off the Mall,” he said. “People are back and forth through it. I would expect the trash cans are going to keep filling up.”
In 1995 when the federal government shut down, the furlough lasted 28 days, and the trash and grass weren’t as much of a problem, according to Litterst, because the shutdown happened in the winter months — November, December and January.
“There were considerably less people out and around,” he said, “because of the weather at that time of year.”
But this time, the unseasonably warm fall weather means people are out, and there’s a fair number of visitors in town.
The overflowing trash, Litterst said, is “one of the big tragedies” in the furlough’s impact.