Booker T. Washington National Monument is back in operation after being closed for more than a month due to a partial-government shutdown.
Visitors were welcomed back to the park on Jan. 27, just days after President Donald Trump signed a temporary deal with Congress to end the shutdown. The park had been closed since Dec. 22.
“It’s been great,” said Robin Snyder, the park’s acting superintendent. “We’ve seen visitors finally returning to the park.”
Snyder was named acting superintendent at the national monument last year until a permanent replacement is found. Snyder also is superintendent at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park in Appomattox.
While the national monument was closed to visitors, staff members continued carrying out essential duties during the shutdown without pay.
Timothy Sims, senior park ranger, said four staff members took turns caring for the horses, hogs, fowl and sheep who live at the park and also regularly checked park trails and buildings.
Park staff will be paid a portion of back pay they missed during the government shutdown in the coming weeks, Snyder said. “The very top priority was paying folks.”
Because of the shutdown, changes have been made to several upcoming events and projects, including a celebration of Black History Month. “We are going to have to scale that back a bit,” Sims said.
Black History Month programs that had been planned for each weekend in February now will be held over the last two weekends of the month because park staff didn’t have enough time to prepare, Sims said.
The park’s monthlong closure also led to the loss of water quality monitoring data collected from the Gills Creek and Jack O’Lantern Trail streams.
Plans to replace the park’s 18,500 feet of rustic, wood fencing also were delayed, Snyder said, but added that she expects the project should be completed by the end of the year.
While the government’s reopening may be temporary — another shutdown could come as soon as Feb. 15 if Congress and President Trump do not come to an agreement about border security — Snyder said the park will continue to operate as normal.
“We can’t know what the future holds,” Snyder said. “We’re just moving forward.”