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Government reopens, tourists flock to Chattanooga area parks

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As the government reopens for business so do national parks. Dozens of local park employees were furloughed during the shutdown, but will receive back pay for the 16 days they spent out of work. Federal workers glad to be back on the job and many determined visitors are excited at the chance to be allowed in the parks once again.

It was a packed parking lot Thursday at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park where you can spot license plates from all over the country.

"It's so exciting. We were praying. Oh my gosh, please open. We have another day here, just open to we can get down here," visitor Cathy Federle said.

"Actually watching the news late last night, screaming with everybody when it got opened," visitor Susan Bremer said.

The friends drove down from Ohio specifically to visit Point Park and the battlefield where Cathy's great grandfather fought in the Civil War.

"We were down here, we're seeing everything. We've got this drive, we're going to get there, and so we see all this police tape and we have pictures in front of police tape and we can't cross over the line," Bremer said.

They're the not only travelers who've been keeping their eyes on Capitol Hill in hopes of the shutdown ending.

"It was closed. Boom, turn around the car, head the other way," visitor from Iowa Peter Bilden said about his unsuccessful sight seeing trip up from Florida.

From father-son trips, to anniversary trips, people have still been driving to the Chattanooga area, determined to get in the parks.

"Wrote all our congressmen to let them know we're very upset because you work hard all year and you only get so much chance for vacation," visitor from Maryland Michael Branford said.

"We stayed overnight in Chattanooga so we came to the battlefields today fortunately they came back to work," visitor from South Carolina Roger Bass said.

For many, the government reopened just in the nick of time.

"Glad we're able to take advantage of this opportunity before we have to head back home later this afternoon," Point Park visitor Brent Lindeman said.

"My dad from Washington state called up and said they're open so we got in the car and came on down," visitor Stewart Veal said.

For Navy man Stewart Veal, he says this trip is a reminder of why he serves.

"After serving in the military and understanding what all it means, coming here so I can look around and realize there's a lot more to it," Veal said.

Many spent the day going from one park to the next, just because now they can. Cathy and Susan are re-taking all those pictures without the police tape.

"Thanks government for opening up!" Susan said.

Park officials say they expect a surge in the number of visitors this weekend. Local businesses hope to make up for some of that tourism money they've lost over the last 16 days. The parks around here pump tens of millions of dollars into the local economy.

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