While the government shutdown continues, some Montana residents are stepping up to make sure Yellowstone National Park stays clean and open for business.
A heated bathroom at Mammoth has been closed since the shutdown began, but just a little ways up the road, there’s an outhouse that’s open. And while it might be a little chilly, this outhouse is practically spotless.
About 30 volunteers met at a convenience store in Gardiner Sunday morning to fan out across the northern part of the park. It was all organized by local businessman Chuck Tanner.
“If the government shutdown continues, we’ll just make it a thing we do every week. We’ve got a lot of good people in this town and who knows, it might even be a little fun,” Tanner said.
Did he say cleaning toilets would be fun?
“I don’t like cleaning MY bathroom,” Tanner said, laughing, “but we can get this one taken care of, alright?”
Garbage bags and rubber gloves were handed out, and the volunteers stepped up.
“We come here a lot, many times, and the fee to come here is so minimal that we just feel that we should give back,” said Livingston resident Vicki Axtell.
Besides picking up the garbage and wiping down surfaces with disinfectant, the day’s effort even included cleaning graffiti off a bathroom wall.
“Well, that’s one less thing for people to see when they have to come in,” said Tanner.
Tanner, like most of the people who live near the park, has a stake in keeping it open.
“The crowds are down, obviously, because a lot of people don’t even think the park’s accessible,” the Gardiner businessman said. “But for the most part, it’s business as usual. You know, they’re doing their cross-country skiing, a lot of photographers, a lot of people just getting away for the holiday season.”
When the work was finished, Tanner treated the group to free pizza and drinks at his tavern.
And while there are tales of filthy toilets — even damage in some national parks — the people doing the cleanup right now say that’s not the case. They say visitors here are treating the park with respect.