National parks in Mississippi reopening after shutdown

Lauren Wood | Buy at The Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center is open again thanks to the government reopening.

Lauren Wood | Buy at
The Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center is open again thanks to the government reopening.

By Holbrook Mohr

Associated Press

JACKSON – Employees and visitors are starting to return to national parks in Mississippi following a deal to end the federal government’s partial shutdown.

At the Vicksburg National Military Park, superintendent Mike Madell said there was a steady stream of visitors at the historic Civil War battlefield on Thursday and 42 furloughed employees were being recalled to work.

“I was just upstairs in the visitor center and it was full up there,” Madell said Thursday.

Still, there are lingering effects in Mississippi from the shutdown.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources said a volunteer program to clean up pristine coastal areas on Saturday won’t include Gulf Islands National Seashore, which includes several barrier islands and Davis Bayou in Mississippi.

Melissa Scallan, a DMR spokeswoman, said Thursday that 200 boaters and other volunteers who signed up to clean the Gulf Islands National Seashore were told they would have to work in different areas because of uncertainty during the shutdown.

Scallan said the decision was made Wednesday in consultation with federal authorities, and officials decided that once the call was made, “it’s going to stand no matter what.”

“I don’t know that we could have switched it back anyways this quickly,” she said.

This will be the 25th anniversary of the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup program. More than 2,500 people usually participate by picking up trash and debris from beaches, rivers and marshes, Scallan said.

Bill Reynolds, spokesman for the National Park Service, said all eight national parks in Mississippi have reopened or are in the process of doing so.

“Bringing people back and opening things up takes time, but they are in the process of reopening,” Reynolds said.

The 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway remained open to traffic during the government shutdown, but its restrooms and visitor centers were closed. The scenic road meanders from Natchez through the corner of northwest Alabama and into Tennessee, just south of Nashville.

Click video to hear audio