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Tourists trespass onto Castillo de San Marcos property

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Updated: 10/08/2013 8:23 pm
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A group of tourists didn't let the government shut down stop them from visiting the Castillo de San Marcos.

Chief Ranger Kim Mayo said it happened about 3:30 p.m. Monday when rangers noticed a group of people roaming about the fort.

"They decided to hop over and make themselves at home inside the fort," said Mayo.

Fifteen people -- 13 adults and two minors -- were caught inside the Castillo de San Marcos even though signs posted at the entrance clearly state the park is closed due to the government shutdown.

"They all admitted they saw the sets of signs and they were in the wrong so we allowed them to leave the property," said Mayo.

Their private unauthorized tour lasted almost an hour before they were caught by law enforcement.

Some tourists visiting the fort today sympathized with the trespassers.

"I can see why they would've done it because we drove three hours just to come and see it," said Nick Venizelos.

But not everyone would take quite the same approach.

"I think the government shutdown is stupid, but if it is closed I think we ought to obey it," said Jim Borthwick.

Mayo said they could've received a $150 fine, but the families were only given a verbal warning and an invitation to come back to see the fort the legal way once the government shutdown ends.

Had the group damaged property inside the fort, Mayo said they would've walked away with a hefty fine.

Because of the shutdown, the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Committee has come up with a list of 10 things you could do for free in St. Augustine:

1)      1) Ordinary People exhibition at the St. Augustine Visitors Information Center, 450th Commemoration program – through Oct. 25

2)     2) Mission Nombre de Dios – one of the oldest mission sites in the nation and the site of the 1565 Menendez settlement. Home to oldest Catholic Parish

3)     3) Ponce de Leon Hotel (Flagler College) – 1888 opulent hotel built by Henry Flagler. Italianate hand-carved Rotunda, frescoes, Tiffany glass. One of the finest historic buildings in the nation.

4)     4) Memorial Presbyterian Church – Henry Flagler buried there. Modeled after church in Paris. Also considered one of the finest in the U.S.

5)     5) San Sebastian Winery – daily free tours and complimentary wine tasting.

6)     6) Freedom Trail – Self-guided tour of St. Augustine’s historic and nationally significant Civil Rights Movement historic sites, inc. MLK’s residence.

7)     7) Cathedral Basilica – historic Catholic Church in downtown St. Augustine

8)     8) St. Augustine Plaza – oldest town plaza in the nation, established in 1572, filled with monuments, historic markers, historic buildings.

9)     9) Almost free! Fort Mose State Park – museum on the first freed Black settlement in the continental United States. Just $2 admission

10) 10)  Coming up! New World in the Eyes of Explorers exhibition at the St. Augustine Visitors Information Center, 450th Commemoration program – Oct. 28 – Jan. 5. Exhibition of early 16th, 17th and 18th century maps, illustrations.

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