April 23, 2014

Homestead Monument reopens to visitors following federal gov’t shutdown

With this week’s reopening of the federal government, the Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice also reopened. Monument superintendent Mark Engler says employees are happy to be back on the job.

It’s a staff of 12 that runs the facility seven days a week in areas including: visitors’ services, maintenance and administration.

Engler says the park service attraction probably lost about 3,000 visitors during the 16-day, partial government shutdown. The monument’s Education and Heritage Centers and the trail system reopened on Thursday.

“We’re all excited about being back to work and we are looking forward to meeting and greeting and serving the American people,” Engler says.

The shutdown forced the monument to cancel its Hedge Apple Festival. Engler says monument personnel are reaching out to school groups that had visits postponed because of the shutdown, hoping to set rescheduled visit dates.

National Park Service employees returned to work to find some storm damage. Engler says recent high winds knocked down an entrance sign near the Heritage Center, while a lightning strike apparently took out some electronic systems.

Lightning also apparently damaged some electrical systems that operate gates and the security system at the monument. Repairs are underway.

By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice