The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 17, 2013

Pennsylvania parks, landmarks reopen

By Michael Rubinkam and Ron Todt
The Associated Press

— PHILADELPHIA — Federal offices and national parks in Pennsylvania resumed business Thursday, a day after U.S. lawmakers resolved a budget battle showdown that partially closed the federal government.

At Gettysburg National Military Park and Valley Forge National Historical Park, officials said barricades were removed and the visitor centers reopened, and the parks resumed normal operations.

In Pottsville, several people waited outside the Social Security office ahead of its 9 a.m. opening. Among them was James Ulrich, an unemployed 19-year-old who needed a replacement Social Security card but had been unable to get one due to the shutdown.

“They just said, ‘We’re not issuing new or (replacement) Social Security cards right now, so you’re going to have to wait until the government’s back up and running.’ ... So we waited until last night, when we heard it was open, and rushed over here this morning,” he said.

Ulrich’s old Social Security card had been lost during a move. Lacking a replacement, he has been unable to apply for jobs.

“Pretty frustrating, because I know I can work,” said Ulrich, a high school dropout who needs a job while he studies for his GED.

Adding insult to injury, Ulrich was told Thursday that a replacement card would take another two weeks to arrive. So, in all, his job search will have been delayed more than a month.

“I don’t have a really good outlook on the government,” he said.

Farther south in Valley Forge, a sign declared “Welcome Back!” to visitors and returning federal employees alike.

At Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, officials waited for word on when the park that includes Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell would reopen, likely around noon.

Nicole Fellmeth, who’s part of the interpretation and education staff at the park, said staff members had been told to report for duty and were waiting to hear from supervisors.

In Gettysburg, Park Ranger and management assistant Katie Lawhon said the historic battlefield and the Eisenhower National Historic Site had reopened.

“Visitors can now drive through the battlefield and visit it on foot,” she said, adding that the visitor’s center remained open during the shutdown because it is owned and operated by the nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation. But neither people nor vehicles were allowed access to the park.