The Norman Transcript

October 18, 2013

Parks open, workers return

By David Crary
The Associated Press

NORMAN — From the Liberty Bell to Alcatraz, federal landmarks and offices reopened Thursday. Furloughed employees were relieved to get back to work — even if faced with email backlogs — but many worried about another such disruption in a matter of months.

“We’d hate to have to live through this all over again,” Richard Marcus, a 29-year employee of the National Archives in Washington, said after the government shutdown finally ended.

Nationwide, from big-city office buildings to wilderness outposts, innumerable federal services and operations shifted back into gear after 16 days.

The U.S. Forest Service started lifting a logging ban on national forests. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services restarted the computerized system used to verify the legal status of workers. Boat trips resumed to Alcatraz, the former federal prison in San Francisco Bay, with 1,600 tickets snapped up by tourists in the first hour of business.

In Alaska, federal officials rushed to get the red king crab fishing season underway. The opening had been delayed because furloughed workers were not around to issue crab-quota permits.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said all 401 national park units — from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California to Acadia National Park in Maine — were reopening Thursday.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees had been among the 800,000 federal workers sent home at the peak of the shutdown.

Visitors from around the world flocked to Yosemite National Park to see such famous sites as El Capitan and Half Dome after weeks of closure brought local economies to a near standstill.

At Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, employees were busy with reopening chores. They returned just in time to begin closing the parks up again for the winter in a couple of weeks.

At Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, one couple’s long wait to see the Liberty Bell and other attractions finally drew to a close.

Karen and Richard Dodds of Oklahoma City were on a quest to see every national park in the U.S. They arrived in Philadelphia about three weeks ago in their motor home, visiting Valley Forge just before the shutdown. They stayed on in the area, awaiting a settlement.