A popular Southern California waterfall will close Friday after "unprecedented crowds" left human waste and "multiple truckloads of trash," the agency that preserves and manages the land said in a press release on Wednesday. The park where the falls are located reopened for weekend use just two weeks ago following a closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency, which owns and manages about 12,590 acres of open space and keeps up more than 150 miles of trails in the Thousand Oaks area, said the falls will be closed Friday "until further notice." Police will be posted at the waterfall and will issue citations for anyone entering the shuttered area, the release warned.
"Over the past two weeks, Paradise Falls attracted unprecedented crowds that behaved differently than they have in the past," said the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency (COSCA) in the release. "While Paradise Falls has traditionally been a simple scenic stop on a hike through the park, recent crowds arrived by the hundreds with plans to spend hours at this sensitive spot. This resulted in environmental impacts to the land that are not sustainable."
Every day this weekend the agency's rangers picked up "multiple truckloads of trash" in the Paradise Falls area, the agency said. The release said that while there were trash cans, many visitors left their trash for staff to pick up and the garbage "accumulated faster than it could be removed."
In addition to garbage, the agency said visitors also used the surrounding areas as a restroom. "Then there were problems with human waste and sanitation as many used areas along the creek both upstream and downstream as a toilet, and wetland vegetation was trampled," COSCA said.
The agency said Wildwood Park, where the falls are located, was opened for weekend visitors two weeks ago, "with high hopes that visitors would respect the park and its natural resources."
"While some did, record crowds broke down the sense of shared responsibility that makes safe park management and protection of the environment feasible," the release added.
COSCA announced in a press release on May 9 that its trails were officially reopening on the weekends, after they previously reopened for weekday use at the end of April. The release explained that all visitors are required to stay at least six feet away from others, not linger in any one location and pack out trash while visiting the outdoor spaces.