BOUNTIFUL — The mood among customers at a Maverik Country Store was upbeat Tuesday, as thousands of Hill Air Force Base employees were allowed to go back to work.
“It’s actually good. Everybody is really doing fine,” said Bonnie Manfull, a manager at the convenience store on State Highway 193, which runs south of the base.
As of midnight Monday, nearly 2,700 Air Force Materiel Command employees were given the go-ahead to return to work.
Col. Kathryn Kolbe is essentially the mayor of the mammoth employer, the state’s largest all on one site. She is the commander of the 75th Air Base Wing.
But there are still plenty of people upset at the federal government shutdown, and its long reaching impact on not only the people who work on base, but live their daily lives away from the base.
Simply wanting to enjoy a family picnic last weekend, Joan Dunn attempted to continue a family tradition that has been around for the past 30 years.
She was stunned when it was cut short by a park employee, who escorted Dunn and the family from the Mueller Park grounds before they had a chance to sit down.
“For the first time we had to alter the location,” said Dunn, who lives in Centerville. “The kids were the most shaken – seven of them under the age of 12 were escorted out.” (See her Letter to the Editor on Page 5.)
The park is on Wasatch-Uinta-Cache National Forest land, meaning it’s officially administered by the federal government.
Locking the gates and shewing people out of Mueller Park angers Rep. Rob Bishop, whose offices are still closed in Utah and in Washington.
“With Mueller Park, we should look at how local governments can manage these areas,” he said.
As of mid-morning Tuesday, cars were in the parking lot and people were seen enjoying the park. Gates were closed but the public could access the recreation area by taking trails, a Clipper photographer observed.
Counties are managing and operating recreational facilities elsewhere in the state. That includes the Moab area in Grand County, home to popular rugged four-wheeling mountain areas to other popular tourist destinations in Kane County.
“This should be a wake up call – to allow local governments, whether county, state or otherwise, to manage federal land through an agreement,” Bishop said. “Mueller Park is a perfect example of what we can do so this will never happen again.”
Visitation to Antelope Island State Park has swelled, said Park Ranger Jeremy Shaw.
“A lot of tour buses that were slated to go to Yellowstone headed our way. We also got folks from Yellowstone who were evicted from the campgrounds,” he said.
Shaw anticipates a long-term increase in visitor numbers as at least one tour bus operator has added Antelope Island to its stops.