Wyoming rest area closures cause litter, excrement problem

DOUGLAS, Wyo. (AP) — Residents in Wyoming have raised concerns about a dozen piles of human feces and wads of used toilet paper found lining residential roads near a highway rest area that closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I understand people need to relieve themselves,” said resident Jim Skeen, who owns property near Orin Junction, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) outside of Douglas. “My wife and I have spotted people relieving themselves (along our driveway) on our way back home during daylight.”

People have not been able to use rest area toilets after Republican Gov. Mark Gordon ordered the state Department of Transportation to close 10 locations earlier this summer due to budgetary concerns stemming from the pandemic, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

In addition to Orin Junction on Interstate 25, rest areas in Lusk, Guernsey, Greybull, Moorcroft, Star Valley, Ft. Steele, Sundance, Upton, and Chugwater have all closed.

Skeen said he first started to clean up after people, but then felt it was not his responsibility.

“I’ve contacted the state, called the governor’s office,” he said, adding that he was passed around to state transportation officials and highway patrol.

Wyoming Department of Transportation Public Affairs Officer Doug McGee said Friday that Highway Patrol would try to monitor the Orin rest area and nearby residential areas for that “behavior.”

He said the department will try to help with the clean-up.

McGee previously told the Douglas Budget newspaper that it was unclear when and if the rest areas would reopen.

The closures are estimated to save the department some $200,000 by the end of September, with a goal of about $800,000 by the end of the fiscal year that ends September 2021.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Lieutenant Randy Starkey confirmed the department will increase patrols in the area as much as possible.

“I doubt people would appreciate it being done in their own driveways,” he said. “It comes down to treating others the way you’d like to be treated.”

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