Shutdown continues - businesses react

Government and Yosemite Businesses continue to deal with park closure following the government shutdown

mvoorhis@sierrastar.comOctober 8, 2013 

Just as with other communities across the country, the Mountain Area is scrambling to adjust to a second week of economic hardship because of the government shutdown, which shows no signs of ending any time soon.

"Last week, we saw a slowdown," said General Manager Bill Putnam with Best Western Yosemite Gateway Inn, "but now we are seeing a definite impact because of the closure of Yosemite.

"We've had quite a few cancellations, understandably so, and because of this, we've already cut the hours of our housekeeping and restaurant staff. This affects the entire community, because if the staff isn't making money, they won't be out and about spending money. We're just taking it day-by-day right now, but unfortunately, there is no end in sight."

Tenaya Lodge at Fish Camp is also taking it day-by-day.

"Our occupancy is lower right now, but typically in October, we have conference guests staying and no groups have canceled so far," said Jonathan Farrington, director of marketing & sales for Tenaya Lodge.

Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler feels that how Madera County will fare because of the government shutdown remains to be seen.

"It's really too early to know," Wheeler said. "We receive $47 million annually in federal funds for social services and other programs. If the shutdown is resolved within the first 30 days or so, there will be no impact. After that, we're not sure what will happen."

"Closure of Yosemite National Park is not only depriving our gateway communities of much-needed tourism revenue," Wheeler continued, "but inconveniencing visitors who travel from all over the world to visit."

As the lack of collaboration in Washington DC becomes deafening, discontented and annoyed visitors are becoming more and more vocal over this unexpected closure.

For the Schmid's, a married couple from Germany, it was not only their first trip to Yosemite, but their first to the US. Because he spoke no English, she acted as spokesperson.

"We've been planning this trip for years," Schmid explained, "and we're very disappointed. We really don't understand why your government would do such a thing. It's such a power play, one that has destroyed our plans."

Paul and Donna Schedler of Camarillo expressed more than disappointment. It was more like disgust, especially since they had to hold off on their vacation plans due to a grave medical condition.

"After finally getting a vacation in two years, we made reservations three months ago and now here we are looking for alternatives to Yosemite because the children in Washington can't get their act together," Paul expressed in frustration. "The White House is purposely doing this to make it painful for all of us, to hold us hostages for their foolishness. I say throw them all out."

His wife, Donna, looking at things a little more calmly, gently touched her husband's arm and said, "I'm just glad we're here, that we're together and we're going to make the best of it."

Despite their anger and frustration with the Capitol, most travelers are trying to look at the bright side, seeking alternatives to visiting Yosemite.

In fact, according to Jarrod Lyman, Director of PR for the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, "We're incredibly busy right now, almost like it's peak summer season, with hundreds of people coming in daily. Of course they're disappointed in the park closure, but they understand, especially when they hear of all the other things there are to see in our area."

Indeed, there are some who consider this closure a golden opportunity to showcase other scenic options. "A couple of guys from Austria wanted to rock climb and hike," continued Lyman, " so we sent them to the Scenic Byway. For those who want to see big trees, we tell them about Nelder Grove. We really are very lucky to have so much to do here."

Pat Althizer of Photo Safari Yosemite couldn't agree more. Even though he has lost some business, he also has picked up unexpected opportunities.

"I was contacted by an agency in Bose, Mont. on behalf of a couple who wanted to snap photos and travel the Ansel Adam's Gallery photo walk in Yosemite," said Althizer. "Because this isn't possible right now, I took them out for four hours to take photos of Bass Lake and Lewis Creek. They were very happy and really enjoyed their photography gig ... so there are some positive experiences despite the park closure."

While the park remains closed, an estimated 600 park employees will be furloughed. It is open to through traffic, and anyone owning a private home in Yosemite can come and go as they please, no special permit required. The Redwoods in Wawona and Yosemite West in the valley remain open to guests, however they must abide by the new park rules.

No national park concessions are open, which means no stores or restaurants are open to the public.

No "recreating," hiking, stopping for photography.

No stopping along the road or at any pullouts. Do not move any barriers to gain access to pullouts or view spots.

According to information provided by Rhonda Salisbury, Sierra Visitor's Bureau director of marketing, there have been reports of people stopping where they can, blocking the road and causing traffic jams.

Visitors caught violating the rules can be ticketed by law enforcement. If they continue to cause problems, they can be arrested.

The Sierra Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service