Government shutdown at Yosemite National Park - 'Ghost park'

 

Fresno Bee

Day two of the federal government shutdown in Yosemite National Park: "Ghost park."

That description from Dan Williams -- one of about 600 Park Service employees in Yosemite furloughed since Tuesday -- was a surprising revelation, even for him.

Williams talked about what a normal day in Yosemite Valley should have looked like: bustling with people and activity.

"Just last weekend in the park, there were Yosemite Conservancy programs going and hikes and people all over the place," Williams said. "In a matter of a few hours, that completely changed. It's kind of shocking and a little surreal."

Those attempting to enter with campground or hotel reservations were turned away.

All visitors have to be out of the park by 3 p.m. today , park spokesman Scott Gediman said. However, through traffic -- such as motorists heading to the east side of the Sierra along Tioga Road -- are being allowed in and entrance fees are not being collected.

While Yosemite's five hotels and camps will be closed, lodges at private communities in the park's boundaries are still accepting reservations: Wawona, Yosemite West and Foresta.

However, guests will have to stay near those communities. During the shutdown, stopping to enjoy the scenery or taking a hike is prohibited, Gediman said. Roads to Glacier Point and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias are also closed.

The Yosemite shutdown made Williams think of news he once heard about a mysterious ship found floating on the ocean, void of a crew or passengers. It was known as the "ghost ship."

So he applied the term to the park on Wednesday. Williams works as a facilities management assistant and employee housing representative in Wawona. During the last government shutdown in 1995, which lasted for several weeks, he worked at Yosemite's south entrance station along Highway 41.

"I remember there was a Japanese family that arrived and there was a grandmother in the back of the sedan and she wanted to see a giant sequoia," Williams said. "I remember having to say, 'No, you can't do that,' and turn them around, and they got so close."

Another heart-breaking denial during that shutdown: A young couple who arrived at the gate who planned to go to Yosemite's iconic Tunnel View turnout to recite their wedding vows.

"I've talked to some of the people working at the south gate now and it's the same things," Williams said. "They are getting people from all over the world and U.S. citizens who are being turned away."

The latest shutdown is also a blow to the park's gateways. Yosemite generates about $380 million a year in tourist dollars for its neighboring communities, Gediman said.

Darin Soukup, executive director for the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce, said many merchants and retailers receive about 50% of their revenue from tourists outside the area. Still, the chamber is hoping visitors will still come and discover Madera County's other attractions, such as fishing, golfing, wineries and art galleries.

A majority of about 1,450 workers employed by the park's concessionaire, Delaware North will be affected by the shutdown, said company spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro.

A grocery store in Yosemite Village and some dining will be available for employees for limited periods , she said.

"We're hoping this gets resolved quickly, it's definitely impacting a lot of individuals," Cesaro said. "We're just taking it day by day."

That description from Dan Williams -- one of about 600 Park Service employees in Yosemite furloughed since Tuesday -- was a surprising revelation, even for him.

Williams talked about what a normal day in Yosemite Valley should have looked like: bustling with people and activity.

"Just last weekend in the park, there were Yosemite Conservancy programs going and hikes and people all over the place," Williams said. "In a matter of a few hours, that completely changed. It's kind of shocking and a little surreal."

Those attempting to enter with campground or hotel reservations were turned away.

All visitors have to be out of the park by 3 p.m. today , park spokesman Scott Gediman said. However, through traffic -- such as motorists heading to the east side of the Sierra along Tioga Road -- are being allowed in and entrance fees are not being collected.

While Yosemite's five hotels and camps will be closed, lodges at private communities in the park's boundaries are still accepting reservations: Wawona, Yosemite West and Foresta.

However, guests will have to stay near those communities. During the shutdown, stopping to enjoy the scenery or taking a hike is prohibited, Gediman said. Roads to Glacier Point and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias are also closed.

The Yosemite shutdown made Williams think of news he once heard about a mysterious ship found floating on the ocean, void of a crew or passengers. It was known as the "ghost ship."

So he applied the term to the park on Wednesday. Williams works as a facilities management assistant and employee housing representative in Wawona. During the last government shutdown in 1995, which lasted for several weeks, he worked at Yosemite's south entrance station along Highway 41.

"I remember there was a Japanese family that arrived and there was a grandmother in the back of the sedan and she wanted to see a giant sequoia," Williams said. "I remember having to say, 'No, you can't do that,' and turn them around, and they got so close."

Another heart-breaking denial during that shutdown: A young couple who arrived at the gate who planned to go to Yosemite's iconic Tunnel View turnout to recite their wedding vows.

"I've talked to some of the people working at the south gate now and it's the same things," Williams said. "They are getting people from all over the world and U.S. citizens who are being turned away."

The latest shutdown is also a blow to the park's gateways. Yosemite generates about $380 million a year in tourist dollars for its neighboring communities, Gediman said.

Darin Soukup, executive director for the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce, said many merchants and retailers receive about 50% of their revenue from tourists outside the area. Still, the chamber is hoping visitors will still come and discover Madera County's other attractions, such as fishing, golfing, wineries and art galleries.

A majority of about 1,450 workers employed by the park's concessionaire, Delaware North will be affected by the shutdown, said company spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro.

A grocery store in Yosemite Village and some dining will be available for employees for limited periods , she said.

"We're hoping this gets resolved quickly, it's definitely impacting a lot of individuals," Cesaro said. "We're just taking it day by day."

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
FILE - This Jan. 9, 2009, file photo shows equipment inside a pilot plant in Scotland, S.D., that turns corn cob into cellulosic ethanol, a precursor to a commercial-scale biorefinery planned for Emmetsburg, Iowa. Biofuels made from corn leftovers after harvest are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a cleaner oil alternative from the start and will help climate change.

    Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas

    Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

  •  
In this March 19, 2014 photo, Oregon Republican Senate candidate, State Rep. Jason Conger, right, speaks as fellow candidate Portland lawyer Tim Crawley, looks on, during a candidate forum in Lake Oswego, Ore. Republicans are making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in Oregon, a reliably Democratic state that hasn't elected a Republican to a statewide office in more than a decade. Republicans think they've found the right candidate in Monica Wehby, a children's brain surgeon who's raised more than $1 million and put her early opposition to the president's health law at the center of her campaign to help her party regain a Senate majority.

    GOP making bold play for US Senate seat in Oregon

    The GOP is making a bold play for a U.S. Senate seat in reliably Democratic Oregon, where a Republican hasn't been elected to a statewide office in more than a decade.

  •  
FILE - This March 14, 2013 file photo shows House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and House Democratic leaders speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House Republicans’ campaign committee raised almost $10 million in March and has $31.2 million banked to defend the party’s majority, according to financial reports filed Sunday. The National Republican Congressional Committee’s $21.2 million fundraising haul in January, February and March gave the group its best first-quarter showing since 2003. It also puts the committee roughly $8 million ahead of its fundraising at this point in 2012. From left to right are Democratic Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.

    GOP campaign committee has $31M to hold House

    The House Republican campaign committee raised almost $10 million in March and has $31.2 million banked to defend the party's majority, according to financial reports filed Sunday.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald 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 on 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.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category