More than a dozen members of a conservation group organized an "emergency cleanup" at Cape Hatteras National Seashore over the weekend to ensure the park remains pristine, while its employees are away during the partial government shutdown.
"We had heard stories about other national parks, where there had been a real problem with the trash," said Bill Smith, president of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, the group that organized the cleanup. "We didn't want to get to that point here."
The association's leaders were concerned about the possibility of overflowing trashcans at Cape Hatteras, Smith said. When volunteers arrived at the cleanup, they didn't find garbage spilling over the top, but members noticed the cans were full, he said. "Some of them were filled pretty much to the brim and needed to be emptied."
Sixteen volunteers covered almost 40 miles of the national seashore during the group's cleanup. Two volunteers started at Hatteras Village and covered the park area up to Avon, Smith said. And 14 people - including two park employees -- spent about two hours on Saturday picking up litter and debris from along the seashore's beach access ramps and along park roads, Smith said. "We covered everything from Ramp 55 in Hatteras Village all the way up across the bridge, including the Oregon Inlet and the Bodie Island area," Smith said.
Over the weekend, Cape Hatteras employees reopened three restrooms and began trash removal, using funds from entrance, camping and lighthouse climbing fees, according to a release from the National Parks Service. Other parks facilities will remain closed until the partial government shutdown ends.
For the last 30 years, the association has planned four regularly scheduled cleanups at Cape Hatteras -- one in April, June, September and November -- every year, Smith said. This weekend's cleanup was in addition to the ones the group typically organizes. The group's members will continue to monitor the park during the shutdown, and they're already discussing organizing another cleanup, Smith said.
"We just need to see how long this thing goes on," Smith said. "If the need arises, we'll do it again."
Aside from full trashcans and litter on the beach, the group's members haven't noticed any major damages to the park, Smith said.
"We've been very lucky there haven't been any problems or incidents that have arisen during the shutdown," Smith said.