OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - As the government gets back to business, many national parks are filling up with travelers excited to explore. Gulf Islands National Seashore took in nearly a dozen campsite reservations Monday. Park employees say at this rate, they’ll be at full capacity by Saturday.
Chris and Dawn Pieper are passing through South Mississippi en route to Florida.
“We’re kind of on a long road trip," said Chris Pieper. “We’ve been disappointed about the shutdown and some of the closures of the national parks. We were very happy when we came in there that it was just opening."
The Wisconsin natives are enjoying some warmer weather, and they’re doing it at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs.
“We were right at the gate, just about noon when they opened," Chris Pieper added.
They’re some of the first visitors the park has seen since the government shut down just before Christmas.
“I saw the sign up the road and I thought, I’ve always wanted to see this national seashore," added California native John Chambers. He’s headed to Florida too.
“Today we got lucky," said Chambers. “We have been affected by the shutdown. We tried to go to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico and that was closed. And we also tried to go to the George H.W. Bush Library near Houston and that was closed even though the George W. Bush Library in Dallas was open."
About a handful of park employees and volunteers are officially on duty. Those employees are also collecting a paycheck once again. They got word on Sunday to report to work on Monday. It’s music to their ears after more than a month without pay.
“It’s been a real struggle for them," said Chris Pieper. “I can’t even imagine what it would be like."
The park maintenance didn’t skip a beat during the shutdown. Volunteers manned the grounds.