Filthy Death Valley bathroom took unpaid rangers hours to clean, time-lapse shows

Rangers at Death Valley National Park — and 800,000 other federal workers across the country — aren’t getting paid as the longest-ever United States government shutdown drags on.

But two rangers at the park on California’s border with Nevada might deserve a bonus after what they dealt with to help reopen parts of the park that had been closed during the lapse in funding: A time-lapse video the park posted on Facebook Wednesday captures the pair spending two hours scrubbing and pressure-washing to prepare just one disgusting bathroom for visitors.

First the rangers gathered up trash from the beyond-capacity trash can, video shows. Next, they swept up the remaining garbage littering the floor and then came in with a pressure washer to remove dirt and other debris — not just from the floor, but from the walls, ceiling and toilet. The pair removed the toilet, cleaned some more and left the bathroom looking virtually spotless.

Parks and other federally-run public spaces across the country have dealt with overflowing trash and vile bathrooms during the shutdown as well. At the Washington Monument and along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., trash has poured out of garbage cans and onto sidewalks, Business Insider reports.

The Capitol building is visible as a man who declined to give his name picks up garbage and stacks it near a trash can during a partial government shutdown on the National Mall in Washington. Andrew Harnik AP

Death Valley National Park said it’s using money from recreation fees to reopen campgrounds at the park and the Stovepipe Wells Contact Station. That’s the case at other popular parks across the country as well, after National Park Service officials announced on Jan. 6 that the agency would be using camping, entrance parking and other fees to keep parks open, clean and as safe as possible.

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“We are taking this extraordinary step to ensure that parks are protected, and that visitors can continue to access parks with limited basic services,” P. Daniel Smith, deputy director of the National Park Service, said in a statement.

A full list of areas in Death Valley that are open and closed during the shutdown can be found on the park’s website. The park warned “the opening of these sites may take a week or longer.”

Weather and flooding have also kept some areas of the park out of bounds, the park said.

Other areas are being kept open with help from beyond the government. The Furnace Creek Visitor Center is still up and running thanks to donations from the Death Valley Natural History Association, the park said in its Facebook post.

“We greatly appreciate the generous contributions of park partners who have provided support during the lapse in appropriations,” Mike Reynolds, the park’s superintendent, said in a statement. “Their efforts have contributed significantly to our ability to maintain access and limited services to Death Valley National Park.”

More than a million visitors flock to Death Valley National Park each year. It’s a massive park that spans 3.4 million acres, meaning it has almost as much land area as Connecticut, according to the National Park Service.

Commenters on the Facebook time-lapse video appeared to appreciate how hard the rangers worked to transform the bathroom from frightening to useable.

“First picture: People are pigs!” one commenter wrote. “Last picture: Park Rangers are awesome!”

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