Father-daughter duo go on “Government Shutdown Litter Patrol” hike in national park

By Sophie Lewis

/ CBS News

Two weeks into the government shutdown, this family is on a mission to clean up Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's common for Marc Newland and his daughter Erica to spend their time together hiking, but their most recent excursion had a deeper purpose. After hearing about the shutdown, Erica suggested they spend their time collecting some of the litter left behind in the park.

Many parks are currently open despite the shutdown, but with little staffing to maintain them. Great Smoky Mountains National Park's emergency fund ran out on New Year's Day, and the park has been operating under the Department of Interior's contingency plan since then, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Newland detailed their plans in a post in the Hike the Smokies Facebook group.

"First, it was off to the Little River and Jake's Creek trailheads where we were pleasantly surprised that there wasn't much work for us," Newland wrote. "Next, we headed to the Laurel Falls trailhead and, as expected, we had plenty of work! We headed up the trail and before we knew it, our bags were full."

Mark Newland and his daughter Erica picked up litter while hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Marc Newland

Newland is not personally affected by the shutdown, but his family was still inspired to make a difference in their community. "I am not a government worker, just an avid hiker who lives just outside of our national park," Newland told CBS News. "We have always made an effort to clean up litter when we hike but after explaining the shutdown to Erica (our 10 year old), she was inspired to kick up our efforts and make a real difference."

National parks across the country have suffered as the shutdown enters its third week. It's left many parks without rangers and other staff members who keep parks clean and running. And three people have died in national parks since the shutdown began, including a woman who was killed by a falling tree at Great Smoky National Park.

Newland said the hike was a "fun and very rewarding day for both of us."

"Erica says that she would like to challenge other hikers to take one day off from getting in miles and impressive vista pics and instead, give back by grabbing a trash bag, heading to the park and collecting some litter!!" Newland wrote. "These mountains give so much to so many people. Imagine if only a fraction of those people decided to give back to the mountains…"

First published on January 5, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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