Published: Oct 17, 2013 11:40 AM EDT
Updated: Oct 17, 2013 5:06 PM EDT

SANIBEL ISLAND, Fl. - In Southwest Florida, J.N. 'Ding' Darling Wildlife Refuge can finally re-open its doors. Part of the refuge closed in May for renovations, and was planning to host a grand re-opening October first, the same day the shutdown began.

Early Thursday morning, signs alerting folks the refuge was closed tdue to the government shutdown came down.

Employees are back at work and the public is welcome to visit. People can enjoy Wildlife Drive for free Thursday since that was the plan for the original reopening. The drive is opening after months of renovation and repaving.

WINK News caught up with a couple visiting from Kentucky who have been anxiously awaiting this reopening.

"I'm a bird lover, and we were really looking forward to this part of the trip.  We love the area and we've enjoyed the trip so far but this is sort of the highlight for me," said Mike Randolph.