Bus service a tourism boost

By county Supervisor Tom Wheeler / Guest CommentaryOctober 11, 2012 

There has been a lot of talk about the Fresno Council of Governments' (COG) potential plan to implement a bus service from Fresno to Yosemite National Park through Madera County. I understand that there are concerns, but I also understand that there is tremendous support for the project as well. It is my belief that working with Fresno COG to ensure stops in Eastern Madera County will result in more tourism revenues for our county as tourists stop and enjoy our community.

As many of you know, Fresno COG released a study last year providing for public transit from Fresno to Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The proposed route to Yosemite would make a number of stops in Fresno before potentially stopping at Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino and Oakhurst. Although, Fresno COG has selected the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) to run their bus route, it is not a YARTS project, nor is it being funded by Madera County.

Fresno COG, however, is receiving mixed signals from Eastern Madera County residents on whether they would support adding tourist stops in the county. It is very possible they will run the buses even without our support and not stop in our community. I find this troubling since there are so many opportunities for our county to benefit.

I'm proposing the idea of packaged promotions, where riders could receive a bus ticket combined with dinner or a night stay at one of our local establishments. These types of promotions would encourage tourists to stay longer and take advantage of what Madera County has to offer.

I'd also like to eventually see buses that could make stops in Bass Lake and North Fork. Furthermore, Eastern Madera County residents could catch the bus to Fresno and avoid driving down the mountain.

I understand there is a concern that additional bus routes to Yosemite would lead to the elimination of private vehicle access to the park. Although, the 1980 General Plan for the Park did call for the eventual removal of private vehicles, the park's upcoming Merced River Plan will amend the General Plan, removing all references to eliminating private vehicle access. Final approval of the Merced River Plan will occur next year.

Many times tourists flying into Fresno ask what else they can do en route to Yosemite. Package promotions for tourists would promote Madera County and help our businesses flourish. It is my hope that our local businesses and residents will help support this endeavor and offer any additional ideas on how to keep tourists visiting and spending in our community.

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