Eighty climbers and locals from the Yosemite Climbing Association, Friends of Joshua Tree and Cliffhanger Guides organized the first Joshua Tree Facelift to clean up the park on October 22.
“Volunteers hold life together here in Joshua Tree. We have our volunteer climbing stewards that respond to climbing emergencies 24/7,” said David Smith, the superintendent for the National Park Service in Joshua Tree National Park. “We could not have cleaned up this place without volunteers organizing and coming to this event.”
In 2021, Joshua Tree National Park broke its historical visitation record with 3.1 million visitors in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. According to Smith, the number of visitors has increased by 130% in the past 10 years while the number of climbers has doubled. This has led to an increase in trash and graffiti, he said.
“The park was built for solitude and not necessarily for three million visitors,” said Bernadette Regan, a climbing ranger for the National Park Service. “One of the biggest problems is the massive increase in vehicular traffic. When people cannot find parking or get frustrated with the one-lane road, they sometimes go off-road and damage a lot of plants and animal habitats.”
In response to the increase in human footprint, the Yosemite Climbing Association brought their signature Facelift event to Joshua Tree National Park, inviting volunteers for a day of stewardship through picking up trash and removing graffiti from rocks.
The National Park Service and the other event organizers said they hope the Joshua Tree Facelift will be an annual event moving forward.