Thursday the National Park Service was back on the job at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. The end of the federal government shutdown meant visitors could once again flow freely into the area's creeks, trails, and campgrounds.
"You can smell the fall in the air, so this is just great. It's a good time to get open with the fall colors and the timing couldn't be better," said Dave Carney, chief of Interpretation and Education for Big South Fork NRRA. "We've got to open up the buildings and make sure everything is open and that we're just available for the public. We'll have our arms open waiting to greet people."
October is prime time for tens of thousands of tourists to take in the colorful show by Mother Nature and Carney looks forward to returning to Big South Fork's regularly scheduled program.
"We're really gearing up for what should be a pretty busy weekend. We're just starting to come into a point when fall colors are going to peak. This is their park and it's here and it's waiting for them," said Carney.
"We get a lot of people at Big South Fork this time of year for the horseback and the hiking because of the colors," said Wayne King, president of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce.
October traditionally generates around $3.5 million in tourism revenue for the Big South Fork region and this year there was a feeling that figure could increase. That optimism was due to additional momentum that really started rolling since last November when the International Mountain Bicycling Association put Big South Fork on the map as a worldwide destination. IMBA gave several trails at Big South Fork its most elite rating, making it the first and only national park property in the U.S. to receive the designation.
"They are considered 'Epic Ride' trails and there are five of those. So that is starting to pick up and it would be a prime opportunity for people to come mountain bike now," said King.
"This is the best time to do some mountain biking because the humidity and temperatures are down, the fall colors are just about to peak, and we're really looking forward to having people back out here enjoying everything this place has to offer," said Carney.