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Work returns after shutdown

NATCHEZ — Local government properties that were forced to close during the 16-day shutdown reopened Thursday, but not before some damage was done.

Natchez National Historical Park Superintendent Kathleen Jenkins said the park lost as much as $16,000 while Melrose and the William Johnson House were closed during most of Fall Pilgrimage.

The National Park Service properties reopened around noon Thursday.

Melrose sees between 80-100 people a day during pilgrimage, but no visitors were allowed on the property during the shutdown, which means NPS lost those entrance fees.

“I’m really sorry people were not able to come to national park sites,” Jenkins said. “I’m also sorry that it impacted our other services as well.”

Jenkins and 18 park employees that were sent home during the shutdown had to cancel speaking engagements for local organizations because of the shutdown.

A stop-work order was issued on Oct. 1 when the government shutdown started for the contractor hired to demolish eight structures at Fort Rosalie and clean up the property. Jenkins said NPS is working to get that contract started again.

“I’m really relieved this is all over,” Jenkins said. “And I’m very appreciative of the local organizations that worked with us (during the shutdown). The Natchez Trace Parkway law enforcement officers were able to help us out with extra patrols of our properties.”

The Trace’s law enforcement officers were some of the only Trace employees that stayed on the job during the shutdown.

Trace Acting Superintendent Dale Wilkerson said he was happy the Trace facilities could be reopened Thursday.

During the shutdown, restrooms and other facilities, including campgrounds, were closed along the Trace. The motor road remained open.

Wilkerson said there was a drop off in recreational traffic on the Trace during the shutdown.

“But we really don’t have a way to gauge how many visitors were turned away from visiting.

“But we do know that the visiting public was impacted somewhat.”

Wilkerson said he, too, is glad the shutdown is over.

“We’re in the business of running national parks on behalf of the American public, so it’s really kind of foreign for us to have to close. We’re really happy to have the parks open again.”