Delta contributes grant funding to re-open MLK national park

Delta Air Lines is contributing $83,500 in grant funding to help re-open the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta starting this weekend until the Super Bowl.

The historical park centered around the civil rights leader, which is run by the National Park Service, has been closed because of the partial federal government shutdown that began Dec. 22.

But the grant from Atlanta-based Delta, along with park recreation fees, will allow the park to open starting Saturday, Jan. 19, for the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday weekend, through Sunday, Feb. 3, the day of the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

The sites that will be open for 16 days starting Saturday include the home where Martin Luther King Jr. was born, the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was co-pastor, the park visitor center, and historic Fire Station No. 6.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a written statement that “we felt it was important we do our part to ensure that the historical landmarks be accessible to the public.”

According to the National Park Service, the grant from the Delta Air Lines Foundation will cover the re-opening of the park, including cleanup, administration, maintenance, and operating costs of employees not covered under fee collection funds.

MORE: With shutdown dragging on, volunteers pick up trash at National Park sites

A light rain falls as Rico Aaron, Jr. (left) and Makalyn Ross (right) take their post for a photo opportunity at the birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Thursday, January 17, 2019. 

icon to expand image

Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a written statement that it “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 despite the lapse of appropriations.”

The National Park Service is contributing funds from fees paid by park visitors for entrance, camping, parking and other services. The Department of Interior said it “has determined that these funds can and should be used to provide immediate maintenance assistance and services to parks during the lapse of appropriations.”

While other federal employees are working without pay, including Transportation Security Administration officers and others, the TSA said guidance from the Office of Government Ethics prohibits its employees from being paid with outside funds, citing language that says executive branch employees are generally prohibited from receiving salary from any source other than the government.

The MLK national park in Atlanta also includes the King Center, the Reflecting Pool, and the crypts of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, which are run by the King family and have remained accessible during the federal shutdown.