JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Castillo de San Marcos and several other national parks in Northeast Florida reopened Monday after being closed for several weeks during the 36-day partial government shutdown.
President Donald Trump signed a bill to temporarily open the federal government for three weeks, ending the longest shutdown in U.S. history. The Senate and House each passed the measure Friday.
The agreement to open the government came as about 800,000 federal employees missed their second consecutive paycheck.
With the enactment of that measure to end the shutdown, the National Park Service is preparing to resume regular operations, though the schedule for individual parks could vary depending on staff size and complexity of operations.
Many parks that have been accessible throughout the lapse in appropriations remain accessible with basic services.
Visitors should contact individual parks or visit park websites for the latest information, opening schedules and accessibility and visitor services.
Some parks that have been closed throughout the lapse in funding might not reopen immediately.
The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument reopened at 9 a.m. Monday, along with the Fort Matanzas National Monument.
Workers raised a flag at the St. Augustine fort, letting people know the Castillo was open to visitors.
The park’s Facebook page said, “Park staff have returned to work, assessing our parks to ensure both parks are prepared for a safe reopening.”
When the gates first opened, several visitors were eagerly waiting to get inside and enjoy the fort and learn more about the historic landmark.
One family visiting from Ft. Lauderdale said they had been planning their trip for months and were very happy to hear the government reopened on Friday, just in time for their visit.
“We were very excited. We’ve been planning it since November and didn’t know what we were going to be able to do if everything was shut down," Torrey Roberts said. "We were very excited.”
Another visitor from Illinois said he and his family were in St. Augustine on Saturday but couldn't go inside the castillo because it was closed.
"We heard it might be open today," Rick Barnard said. "We’re flying out this afternoon back to the Chicago area. Yayyy! We get to see the inside.”
Workers were very visibly excited Monday morning to be back at work after being off during the government shutdown. A lot of them had smiles on their faces and were greeting each other with hugs.
They were at the fort early, about an hour before the gates opened, to do a little extra cleanup work. They had been out the day before to get the monument ready for Monday's reopening.
Visit www.nps.gov/casa for updated information about the park.
All facilities at the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and Cumberland Island in Southeast Georgia were also closed during the shutdown and are expected to reopen soon.
The Timucuan Preserve and Fort Caroline will resume regular operations on Tuesday, officials said on social media.