SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of tourists on Thursday stepped foot on Alcatraz Island for the first time in more than two weeks after the federal government reopened national parks closed by the shutdown.
Alcatraz Island, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, reopened Thursday. It was one of dozens of national parks that were closed to visitors because of the standoff in Washington.
The infamous island prison and former Civil War fortress in San Francisco Bay hosts millions of visitors per year for its famous day and night tours. Visitors often roam through cells that once held infamous mobsters Al Capone, "Machine Gun" Kelly and other criminals.
Park spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet, who was partially furloughed during the shutdown, says she and her colleagues were eager to get back to work.
"I have to say pretty much everyone in the National Park Service is really excited to be back at work today," she said. "We are much better at welcoming people into their national parks than keeping them out of them."
Picavet says the park sold 1,600 tickets for Alcatraz within the first hour after re-opening for reservations.
Kelly and Victor Jayrow, who were visiting from Edgewood, Texas, said they rushed to buy tickets after hearing that the national parks had re-opened.
"We knew that it was closed and we were very disappointed," said Kelly Jayrow. "And so we watched the news this morning and found out it was open and decided to come down and try to get a ticket."