Federal shutdown shuts out Joshua Tree visitors, takes toll on small businesses

Joshua Tree Shutdown

JOSHUA TREE, Calif. - Merretta Trimmer drove from Illinois to visit family and experience the Joshua Tree National Park Tuesday, but the government shutdown shut her out.

"I didn't even put two-and-two together that the government shutdown was going to affect my vacation," she said.
The park, which sees about 1.25 million visitors each year, remains closed and like the tourists businesses such as the Coyote Corner gift shop, feel the pain. Employee Carolyn Long said October is the first and one of the most important months of the season.

"I mean the store is usually packed to the rim," said Long.

Now the shop only sees about 15 customers a day.

"It's been pretty bad," she said.

The livelihood of some businesses depends on rock climbing visitors.

"Every company I know, they've had to refund money. They've lost thousands of dollars," said Carrie Dagher, a climbing guide for Uprising Adventure Guides.

However with no rocks available to climb at the park, employees and owners are struggling to survive.

"It's really what propels us into the rest of the year. This is our time to make our money to live. Everyone is desperate to figure out how we're going to make it if this doesn't change," she said.

If and when the park does re-open, businesses hope it won't be too late to recover.

"I'm hopeful. Right now it's depressing but give it time, it will bounce back I'm sure. It's a pretty great place," said Long.

Neighbors and business will band together for a peaceful protest outside Joshua Tree National Park starting at 4 p.m. to sunset Wednesday. Protesters will gather at the West entrance with a message to "Shut down the shutdown."

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