Saguaro National Park Welcomes Return Of Visitors

Now that the partial government has ended, National Parks are being reopened. On Thursday, rangers at Saguaro National Park in Arizona let visitors in to bike and hike the trails. Open during the shutdown was the sector headquarters for the Border Patrol in Tucson.

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TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: I'm Ted Robbins, in Tucson, with a reminder this was a partial government shutdown. I'm at sector headquarters for the Border Patrol. Today - and for the last two weeks, pretty much - cars and SUVs with agents have been going in and out of the parking lot here. So have buses carrying people apprehended in the desert, along with people who are being deported back to Mexico.

JUANITA MOLINA: Border Patrol as a policing force, here in southern Arizona, is a constant.

ROBBINS: Juanita Molina is with the immigrant rights group Border Action Network. She says her community felt afraid, as usual. Of course, others say even a partial pullback would have been an invitation for more illegal crossers to enter. Customs and Border Protection officials didn't respond to a request for comment. On the other hand, Park Service employees were talking to everyone.

MIKE MUCKER: Hi, there. How are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hi, there. Welcome to Saguaro National Park. How you folks doing today?

MUCKER: Doing great. Thank you.

ROBBINS: For the first time for 16 days, rangers let visitors in to bike and hike the trails in this forest of giant cactus. Mike Mucker lives down the road.

MUCKER: We like hiking here, and it's just very, very frustrating that it was closed, especially for such silly reasons.

ROBBINS: Two visitors from Salt Lake City, Craig Hansen and Irene Fisher, had to rearrange their vacation to accommodate the shutdown.

CRAIG HANSEN: Stayed in places we hadn't planned to stay and visited places we hadn't planned to stay, and we were very happy to see this open today, because we have to go home tomorrow.

ROBBINS: Hansen says the nation's leaders are doing a bad job. Irene Fisher is wary about another shutdown when the current agreement expires in January.

IRENE FISHER: I hope they're smart enough to get the message, but I'm not confident that we'll avoid it.

ROBBINS: Darla Sidles is just happy to be back at work for now. She's superintendent of Saguaro National Park.

DARLA SIDLES: Absolutely. It felt like the first day of school today. The employees were coming in. Everybody was just gleeful.

ROBBINS: Sidles has some emergency money, in case there's another shutdown.

SIDLES: We always think that, as federal employees, our jobs are pretty secure. And clearly, this is an indication that they're not always secure.

ROBBINS: She says most of her 79 employees live paycheck to paycheck. Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.

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