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With government shutdown over, national parks reopen to tourists

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Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 11:39 p.m.
 

Standing outside the museum at Fort Necessity National Battlefield near Farmington, Fayette County, on Thursday, two couples from Ohio said they were excited to finally enter the national parks they drove to Pennsylvania to see.

Gene and Terry Martini and Glenn and Nancy Hall, all of Columbus, take a vacation each fall to tour national parks and historic sites, tracking the visits in spiral-bound “passports” with stamps earned at each site.

Earlier this week, “we were very disappointed they were not open,” Terry Martini said of the national sites.

In the meantime, they visited state sites, including Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.

“Instead of five days, we have two” to visit national parks, said Nancy Hall.

Fort Necessity was one of five national parks in Western Pennsylvania shuttered by the partial federal government shutdown. About 50 employees were furloughed, said Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Park Service of Western Pennsylvania.

“In general, we're happy to be back,” Reinbold said “(Employees) take their jobs very seriously.”

About 2,000 people would have visited the site of an early battle in the French and Indian War during the 16 days of the shutdown, Reinbold said.

At the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Somerset County, as many as 25,000 people would have visited, he said.

Several bus tours canceled their trips or modified their plans, Reinbold said.

The memorial commemorates the 40 passengers and crew who died aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed into a field on Sept. 11, 2001.

Julie Riley and her husband, Dennis, said their stop at the Flight 93 Memorial on Thursday marked the first time this week they entered a national park legally.

“It should never have happened ...,” said Julie Riley. “The parks belong to the people.”

Dennis Riley said they planned a weeklong tour of national parks and historic sites well before the shutdown. The pair from Oak Hills, Calif., visited Gettysburg, Antietam and other Pennsylvania battlefields despite the closure.

Several visitors at the memorial said they made last-minute plans to visit when Congress approved a measure Wednesday night to reopen the government.

“We read about the reopening yesterday and thought it was a good idea to visit,” said Lorenz Engel of Munich. Engel and his wife, Helga, traveled to this country so Lorenz could run in last weekend's Chicago Marathon.

The couple, sightseeing on the way to New York, added a stop to their itinerary when they learned the government would reopen.

“It's difficult to commemorate a crash-down. I think they found a good way,” Lorenz Engel said of the memorial.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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