Oct 17, 2013 4:25 PM by Sara Donchey
PADRE ISLAND - After being shut down for more than two weeks, the Padre Island National Seashore reopened this morning with a full staff.
More than 40 of the 50 employees were furloughed for the past 16 days as a result of the federal government shutdown and the park was forced to close.
"You're staying home and you want to get back and do the things you need to do," said Juan Rodriguez, the park's Chief of Education. "And you have a lot of things pending - that's what most of the employees were thinking."
And just as soon as Rodriguez began his work day, the calls started pouring in from the public.
"I had like 14 calls already - people inquiring whether we were open or not, and people wanting to use the facilities."
Slightly more than a dozen workers who were deemed essential, such as law enforcement, still had to report for duty during the shutdown.
But, they were not getting paid, and they were working with a bare-bones support staff.
"It was hectic," said Donna Shaver, a scientist charged with caring for endangered sea life. "It was busy, and we're certainly glad to have everybody back today."
Several visitors walking through the park were also happy to see it reopened.
"I just said thank you Jesus, we are so blessed," said Lee Fields.
When Fields and her husband Ray drove from New Mexico to camp at the seashore last week, they were met with barriers blocking the park entrance.
"I thought 'they've locked us out of our second home," Fields said.
So, they waited for an entire week for the shutdown to end, and this morning, they were the first ones in the gate.
"We've been coming here for 40 years," Ray Fields said. "And this is the first time we hadn't been able to get in. So, it's great. It's great to be here."