With traffic backed-up close to a mile, Yosemite National Park visitors waited patiently at the southgate entrance. Park rangers greeted guests with huge smiles, while visitors cheerfully responded with a hearty "welcome back."
Yosemite National Park officially reopened to the public at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, sixteen days following the U.S. government shutdown.
"We are excited to reopen and welcome visitors back to Yosemite," park superintendent Don Neubacher stated. "Autumn is a particularly special season to enjoy Yosemite's colorful grandeur."
"Of course, we would have preferred that the park never closed," Jarrod Lyman, PR Director of Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau added, "or if it had to close, that it opened again five minutes later. But Fall is an incredible time of transition and beauty in the park, and with the weather changing, it's an amazing time to visit. We are so happy that visitors will have the chance to appreciate Yosemite."
First-time Yosemite visitors, Vangie and Jeffrey Galon from the Philippines, planned a three-week vacation in the U.S. The first week was spent staying with relatives in Fresno waiting for the park to reopen.
"We're just lucky that it opened before we had to leave on Sunday," said Vangie with a sigh of relief. The young couple, with camera ready at hand, were excited about spending the day taking in Yosemite's jaw-dropping magnificence.
Tom Hawkins of Coarsegold, while thrilled Yosemite has reopened, took a brief moment to express his disdain. "The park should never have closed in the first place," he said adamantly, "but I'm very happy that it's open again. Now our guests from Illinois can experience first-hand the beauty Yosemite has to offer."
One area business owner, while delighted with the reopening, had a different slant, commenting that the shutdown couldn't have come at a worse time.
"The real problem is that this is the last month when things are really good for us it's our last chance to make money before the snow hits," Ted Roache, co-owner of Sierra Sky Ranch said. "We've actually started staff lay-offs now, as opposed to mid-November, when business usually starts quieting down.
"Last night (Oct. 17) we had one table in our restaurant. We typically have 20-25 tables on Thursday nights," Roache said.
"We lost thousands of dollars each day during the shutdown, going from a full-house of 26 rooms down to 10. That doesn't even include all the money lost in restaurant business."
Roache doesn't understand why Yosemite is mainly marketed to attract summer crowds. "I just wish we would market it for winter, when the park is at its most beautiful and visitors aren't pushing through throngs of people."
All major roads within Yosemite National Park are open, including the Tioga Road, Glacier Point Road, and the road to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
All park operations are up and running, including the campgrounds and visitor centers.
DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., the parks primary concessionaire, has reopened accommodations providing food service and retail outlets. Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Curry Village, Housekeeping Camp, and the Ahwahnee are also open.
The Ansel Adams Gallery, the oldest continuously operating concessionaire in the national park system, is open as well.
The park reopening came just in time to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant, with celebratory events being held within gateway communities. South Gate Brewing Company in Oakhurst will host Yosemite Fest on Saturday, Oct. 26.