Yosemite limited access worries some Oakhurst businesses, visitors amid shutdown

Hear from Yosemite visitors during the government shutdown

The government shutdown hasn't stopped people from visiting the country's national parks. Here's what a few visitors had to say at Yosemite on Jan. 2, 2019.
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The government shutdown hasn't stopped people from visiting the country's national parks. Here's what a few visitors had to say at Yosemite on Jan. 2, 2019.

“Business as usual” is not a phrase that’s been uttered too often around Oakhurst in the days since the National Parks Service announced limited access of the Highway 41 corridor into Yosemite National Park, due to the government shutdown

Since Monday, there’s been a checkpoint from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the south entrance, only allowing in those with residence or lodging reservations within the park. All other guests are asked to enter the park via Highway 140 at El Portal Road.

Reaction to the changes amid the government shutdown has varied among businesses and visitors, though many fear what could happen if the shutdown draws out beyond the short term.

Usually closure of the corridor could mean a dip in revenue for businesses in a gateway community such as Oakhurst, as it did in the summer during the closure caused by the Ferguson Fire.

Still, Monday proved to be different for some. For example, Starbucks grew lively at around 11 a.m., with many families turned away from the south entrance discussing alternate plans.

The Cool Bean Cafe had a similar spike in business. “We’ve had one of our busier days for the holiday season,” said The Cool Bean Cafe manager KC Butterfield.

Even with President Donald Trump declaring it “could be a long time or could be quickly” before the shutdown ends, Butterfield said fears of losses similar to those suffered during the Ferguson Fire have not set in — at least not yet.

“If this goes on for another week, we could probably start getting worried about how this could affect us economically,” he said. “No one knows when (the government shutdown) is going to be over, so the fear is rising, I guess.”

El Cid Mexican restaurant could not relate to the coffee shops’ rise in business but shared a similar sentiment to Butterfield’s on the economic impact.

El Cid’s Cashier Kathy Martinez said she expects business to be slow for as long as the limited access remains, adding that it could go as far as to impact some employees’ hours.

Oakhurst businesses were happy to serve the visitors turned away from the south entrance, but the visitors were not as happy to be detoured.

“More clear information, that’s the biggest thing. There are easier ways for someone from the National Park Service to post ‘This is what’s open. This is what’s closed,’” said Nathan Garcia, 30, of Simi Valley, who was visiting the park for the second time in two years.

Posts announcing the limited access to Highway 41 did not go up until 10:17 a.m. Monday on Twitter and Facebook.

With the first snow, Yosemite Valley presents a tranquil winter-like scene for visitors, such as Massachusetts native Jasmine Scalli, and foraging wildlife, like a coyote in its thick, full coat, hunting in a meadow.

Garcia and his family were planning on turning back around and heading home if the traffic along Highway 140 proved to be too much.

Chris Carlson, 49, of Pismo Beach, was also unaware of the closure until he made the drive up, only to be turned away.

He and his young daughter stopped by the Oakhurst Starbucks to eat before they headed down Highway 49. He joked that the pair, who have made this trip a yearly tradition, could have been in Yosemite Valley “having fun and goofing around by now.”

“It’s a glass half empty or half full kind of thing, but it’s still half full for us because we’re going to make the best of it,” Carlson said.

The limited access to the south entrance is one of many issues created by the government shutdown for national parks across the country.

In the case of Yosemite, Wawona Campground, Hodgdon Meadow Campground, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Crane Flat Snow Play Area and Goat Meadow Snow Play Area, located just outside the South Entrance of Yosemite National Park, have all closed due to impacts from human waste and public safety concerns, according to the park service.

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