BEATRICE, NE – Last Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation that ended the partial government shutdown through at least Feb. 15.
That allowed 59 national parks and 117 national monuments to reopen. Among those reopened is Homestead National Monument near Beatrice.
“We are excited to be back to work,” Monument superintendent Mark Engler said. “We look forward to serving the American people and we’re very grateful for the help, the support we got from people during that period.”
Engler says anywhere from 18-30 people are employed by the Monument, depending on the time of year.
During the 35-day shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, only one employee was on duty.
“We wanted to make sure the utility systems were operating properly,” Engler said. “We wanted to make sure that all of the systems that are used to maintain these facilities were operating as they are intended.”
Things have been getting back to normal this week. Chief Ranger Susan Cook has been busy organizing upcoming events at the park, most notably a free film series on weekends in February and March. The films will show at the Homestead Education Center.
“The theme of our year is innovation,” Cook said. “We’re tying it into the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The other half our films are tied to the Apollo 11 landing, because it’s the 50th anniversary this July.”
End of Track: Wyoming will air this weekend, with Matt Damon’s The Martian showing Feb. 2-3.
The Railroad that Tamed the West shows Feb. 9-10, Hidden Figures on Feb. 16-17, The West: The Grandest Enterprise Under God on Feb. 23-24 and In the Shadow of the Moon will show on Mar. 2-3.
“The films are about innovation, because homesteading about innovation,” Cook said. “Homesteaders had to innovate in order to be successful. Homesteading was the frontier of the past, and homesteading today, the frontier now, is space. The moon.”
President Trump has indicated that another partial shutdown is possible if he doesn’t get funding for a southern border wall. Congress has until Feb. 15 to secure a deal, but those who work at Homestead are only focused on the present.
“We’re focused on the work that needs to be done in preparation to take care of the park visitor that may be visiting this afternoon,” Engler said, “or serving school groups in distance learning perhaps tomorrow. Of course, we’re working toward preparation of insuring the park is ready to greet thousands of people this coming spring and summer.”
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