Ding Darling, Tarpon Bay Explorers back open after shutdown

CREATED Oct 17, 2013

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SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. - The vote that ended the government shutdown couldn't have come any sooner for many Southwest Florida businesses rocked by the shutdown. 

Some closed by mere coincidence of where they run their business. 

Sanibel Island was one of the areas hardest hit by the congressional clash.

For 16 days, the kayak launch at Tarpon Bay Explorers was quiet.

Now, the customers are coming back to help keep the company afloat.

“As soon as we got out there we saw a dolphin feeding on the edge of the mangrove,” said Alexia Callihan, one of the first customers to enjoy the kayaks there since the government shutdown.

Wendy Schnapp is thankful her 22 employees can now collect a paycheck again after 16 days of no pay.

“There is no reason that this should have happened,” Schnapp said of the shutdown.

Tarpon Bay is run out of Ding Darling National Wildlife r=Refuge. It is a private company caught in the middle of the federal furloughs.

“We're concession contract so even though we operate on federal land, we are not federal employees so there's no chance that we're going to get back pay,” Schnapp said.

FOX 4 caught up with one Tarpon Bay Explorers employee, Marin Hanley, Thursday after interviewing her the week before on day 10 of the shutdown where she mentioned she had to dip into savings to live.

Her worry is now turned to a smile because she is now back giving tours of the refuge. 

Schnapp estimates Tarpon Bay lost close to $45,000 in revenue during the shutdown. 

The threat isn't over because another budget vote comes in January. They’re hoping a repeat isn’t in the cards.

Next week there is a chance to make up for some of the lost revenue. One of the biggest events for the refuge, Ding Darling Days, is coming up next week.

A portion had to be canceled due to the shutdown, but other parts of the celebration will continue. To find out how you can take park, click on the ‘Big Red 4’ section of our website.

Tarpon Bay is working with Ding Darling on the celebration.

That means Ding Darling Refuge, which also opened completely Thursday, has a lot of work to be done.

They will welcome that work with open arms, glad to finally have a job to do once again.