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Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta open despite government shutdown

Posted at 8:04 AM, Jan 20, 2019

The National Park Service will use a grant from Delta Air Lines and fee revenues to reopen the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta despite the government shutdown.

Most sites of the park, including the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and King's birth home, have been closed since the partial government shutdown began on December 22. Travelers missed their chance to relive the civil rights leader's legacy and many others were worried they could not visit the sites during the upcoming federal holiday honoring King.

The historic park will open Saturday for 16 days to ensure people in Atlanta can celebrate King's legacy in advance of the holiday on Monday and travelers attending the Super Bowl game on February 3 have a chance to visit the sites, the park service said.

An $83,500 grant from the Delta Air Lines Foundation will cover the cleanup, administration, maintenance and operating costs of employees not covered under recreation fee funds.

"This is yet another example of private organizations stepping up to ensure that our visitors from across the nation and around the world are able to have a meaningful experience at national parks," said David L. Bernhardt, acting secretary of the Interior.

In a statement, Delta CEO and trustee of the Delta Air Lines Foundation Ed Bastian said the group "felt it was important we do our part to ensure that the historical landmarks be accessible to the public."

"Dr. King was about bringing people together and at Delta, we are about making the world a smaller place," he added.

The Atlanta site includes the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was co-pastor for years, a visitors' center and the home where King was born in 1929.

This year, the holiday observed every third Monday in January falls just days after the 90th anniversary of King's birth, January 15.

The partial government shutdown has closed other sites that celebrate King and the civil rights movement, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington and several Alabama sites such as the Selma-to-Montgomery March interpretive centers in Selma and White Hall, the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site and Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.