After 16 days of having their gates closed, the Andersonville National Historic Site reopened on Thursday, and employees are now speaking out about what the last two and a half weeks have been like.
Chief of Interpretation and Education Eric Leonard says 15 employees working for the government were without jobs since October 1st, but it actually affected many more.
David Stroup works with Eastern National, a company who operates bookstores inside national sites, and says because the park was closed, he was forced to be laid off. Since he wasn't employed by the government, Stroup had to apply for unemployment and also cancel all of his inventory orders for books and t-shirts, many of which come from locally owned shops. Due to a lack of orders, Stroup says he's sure the stores he ordered from also cut back on hours until things went back to normal, and many don't realize just how widespread the effect of the shutdown was.
David Tise is currently serving a 12-week internship at the site and says a good portion of it was spent not learning or helping others, which was upsetting for him during the opportunity.
Leonard says when everyone heard the news that they could reopen the gates to the public, they were thrilled and have seen many thankful customers come through their doors in the past two days.
Those employed by the government also learned that they will receive compensation for their furloughed days and though they're happy, Leonard says they're more thrilled to be able to tell the public that they can do things such as visit their loved one's gravesite again.
Now that Andersonville's National Cemetery is open again, employees are taking the time to remind visitors of the seasonal changes to the floral decoration policy.
Fresh cut flowers are always allowed, but now that it's getting colder artificial flowers and wreaths are permitted until April 15th.
Plantings, statues and vigil lights are never permitted, but starting December 1st visitors can place Christmas wreaths and floral blankets no larger than two by three feet at a grave.
Employees say they'll keep all floral decorations up until they become faded or unsightly.
Stay connected to MySouthWestGA.com as stories develop and the FOX 31 Newscast at 10 PM. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter to join in on the conversation and connect with FOX 31!