- The National Parks Service announced that it would open the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park despite the government shutdown thanks to an $83,500 grant from The Delta Air Lines Foundation.
- The Atlanta, Georgia park will be open to visitors for nearly two weeks around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and a major football game, maximizing its opportunity for visitors.
- NPS-run parks have seen some of the worst effects of the shutdown, with campsites and parklands becoming riddled with trash as workers are unavailable.
The National Parks Service announced that it would open Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park for over two weeks around the MLK holiday thanks to an $83,500 grant from The Delta Air Lines Foundation.
The Atlanta, Georgia park was previously closed because of the federal government shutdown, which has entered its fifth week, but the money from the Atlanta-based airline will open the various sites in the city’s historic neighborhood including his childhood home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fire Station No. 6, and a visitor center.
Ed Bastian, the chief executive of Delta Air Lines, wrote in a statement on Linkedin that upon learning of the park’s closure, the organization “knew we had to take action.”
Bastian added, “These historic landmarks represent the strength of our community and should always be made available for the public to enjoy.”
The grant will be combined with money the parks service collected from entrance, camping, and parking fees. Beyond the re-opening of the park, the grant will also cover maintenance and administration costs that exceed those collected fees.
The news comes after weeks of reports detailing the rapidly declining conditions at national parks across the country where volunteers and visitors have not been willing or able to keep up with trash piling up in campgrounds and parklands. Staff would normally maintain such things, but some have been furloughed.
In some parks, public toilets were overflowing with human waste, and garbage was scattered across roads and camp areas. At Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park, visitors dodged entrance fees, defaced natural rocks with graffiti, and cut down centuries-old trees.