In Tuskegee, Selma and Lowndes County National historic sites and parks reopen

Published 5:52 pm Thursday, October 17, 2013

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

They’re back!

With the end to the government shutdown approved Wednesday night, the National Park Service reopened the Tuskegee Institute and Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Sites, as well as the Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail, including the Selma and Lowndes Interpretive Centers, today (Thursday, Oct.17).

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Also, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alabama River Lakes Site Office, reopened the Prairie Creek Campground in Lowndes County and Gunter Hill Campground, both on the R.E. “Bob” Woodruff Reservoir of the Alabama River today.

“I’m happy to work for the National Park Service, and I’m glad to be back at work,” said Patricia Butts, management analyst/public information officer for the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site and the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.

Butts issued a press release Thursday confirming the reopening. And Superintendent Sandra L. Taylor said, “The employees are ready to perform the work they love and educate the public about the great American stories that make this country great. I invite everyone to come and see our sites, it’s good reinforcement for the rich heritage we share.”

According to Butts, the recent shutdown of the federal government caused a lapse in appropriations to the National Park Service, which closed all 401 of it its national parks including the Tuskegee Institute, Tuskegee Airmen Historic Sites and the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.

She said those sites average 95 visitors per day in October and the National Park System averages more than 715,000 visitors daily.

Butts said during the shutdown, the National Park System stood to lose $450,000 per day in lost revenue from fees collected at entry stations and fees for in-park activities such as cave tours, boat rides and camping.

She said gateway communities across the nation see about $76 million per day in total sales, which are lost during the shutdown.

Butts said, “Visitors spend visitors spend about $2,110,000 a year in the communities around the Tuskegee Institute NHS and Tuskegee Airmen NHS.
She said 23 employees were on furlough because of the shutdown at the Tuskegee, Selma and Lowndes County sites with four excepted for security and emergency services.

In Selma and Lowndes County, she said there were six employees furloughed and one employee excepted for security and emergency services.

Nationwide she said the furlough involved more than 20,000 National Park Service employees with 3,000 on duty to ensure health, safety and security and it affected about 12,000 concessions employees.

Frank McIntosh, park manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alabama River Lakes Office in Hayneville said the Holy Ground Battlefield Park in Lowndesboro boat ramp was closed for only two days before it was ordered reopened during the government shutdown.

He said the overlook and beach areas at Holy Ground were already closed for the winter as usual when the shutdown occurred.

McIntosh said, however, Prairie Creek Campground and Gunter Hill Campgrounds also operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alabama River Lakes Office in Hayneville were closed for the entire shutdown but reopened on Thursday.

He said there were a lot of reservations for the shutdown period, but really busy time that coming up includes Halloween when both parks will be at full capacity.

McIntosh said five park rangers and one administrator were furloughed at the Alabama River Lakes Office in Hayneville and four park rangers were furloughed at the sub office near Camden at Millers Ferry.

The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail currently consists of two National Park Service interpretive centers: The Lowndes Interpretive Center in White Hall, and the Selma Interpretive Center in Selma.