ISLAMORADA, Fla. (AP) — Popular fishing waters in national parks in the Florida Keys are preparing to reopen, now that the partial government shutdown is over.
Dry Tortugas National Park is expected to fully reopen by Thursday afternoon. Everglades National Park is expected to fully reopen by Friday morning.
The closure of Everglades National Park had put almost all Florida Bay off limits to fishermen.
Park Superintendent Dan Kimball emailed commercial fishermen early Thursday to say he was opening the bay immediately, along with other areas of the park that do not depend on the reopening of facilities or the return of furloughed staff.
"We are very happy to be back at work serving the American people and welcoming visitors to Everglades National Park," Kimball in a news release. "Weather in south Florida is great right now! I'd encourage all to get outdoors, come visit the Everglades and enjoy all that the park has to offer."
The rest of the park was going to be reopened as soon as furloughed staff could be recalled, Kimball said. Visitors will be able to access all visitor facilities, including five visitor centers and bookstores, all park campgrounds, park roads and recreational waters.
Tram tours and bike rentals at Shark Valley, the Flamingo Marina, Boat Tours in Everglades City and Flamingo, and airboat tours along Tamiami Trail were all back up and running Thursday. Guided ranger tours will begin as normally scheduled Friday.
Everglades National Park visitors spend about $147 million a year in the communities around Everglades National Park, according to the National Park Service. It has been closed since October because of the lapse in Congressional appropriations.