About 450 federal workers were back on the job Thursday at Georgia’s 11 National Parks sites. All were closed to the public during the 16 day government shutdown.
In Macon, the Ocmulgee National Monument saw a steady stream of visitors as soon as the gates re-opened.
Paul and Betty Mayette, who are vacationing from Jacksonville, Florida visited these ancient Native American earthworks on a whim. "We wondered as we drove over here if the park would be open. We didn’t know if it was a federal park or not, so when we drove up and the gate was open we said “oh, they’re open and our timing is good!"
Park officials got word soon after Congress arrived at a deal to end the shutdown. They managed to open their gates promptly at 9 A-M. All 15 full and part time staff were in by 10 and very happy to be back.
Some states, like South Dakota, used their own money to re-open national parks during the shutdown, but not Georgia.
According to the National Park Service, the shutdown affected many as 750,000 visitors across the country.
Jim David, superintendent of the Ocmulgee National Monument, says he hopes we won't get another federal shutdown again next month. That is what happened eight years ago. "In ’95 we closed 6 days in November and then Congress passed a 30 day resolution, so we were open for 30 days and then December 16th we shut down again and were closed for 21 days."
David says aside from the uncertainty of not being paid, employees were also frustrated by having to tell visiting schoolchildren they could not visit the park during a shut down.