Small communities around Yosemite that depend on tourism are ready to welcome back visitors, as the park prepares to reopen on Thursday.
Day use reservations for June and July went on sale Tuesday and are already selling out. The National Park Service will allow 1,700 vehicles to enter the park each day in June and July, the first time since the park was shut down on Mar. 20.
The tourism industry in Mariposa County has been hard hit by the shutdown.
“We have been desperately waiting for Yosemite park to reopen because it's what's going to bring people back to our community,” says Tony McDaniel with the Yosemite Mariposa Tourism Bureau.
As restrictions have lifted in some parts of California, business in the area is slowly resuming but the park remains the biggest draw to visitors.
"Slowly our restaurants have come back, but places like lodging, stores that rely on visitor traffic like gift shops, they have been hurting,” says McDaniel. “And we are excited to see people begin to return. Lodging is set to open on June 11. Campgrounds in our county are set to open on June 11.”
The park is limiting entry to about half of what it typically sees during the busy summer months, but McDaniel says there are also hundreds of miles of hiking trails nearby for visitors to enjoy if they can not get a reservation.
“I think most people are familiar with the Merced River within Yosemite, but you can come and experience the Merced River outside of the park,” he says. “I just spent some time out on Sunday, hiking in the Sierra National Forest. There are plenty of places to recreate.”
McDaniel says the virus is still a major concern in the community, so strict safety and sanitation measures are being implemented throughout the area, and not just in the park. The county has only 15 coronavirus cases and one death, and residents would like to keep those numbers low.
“If they are showing any symptom at all, we are asking people to stay home. Stay home and do what's right for yourself and the general public,” McDaniel says. “We need people to return, but safety is the priority for everyone.”
A spike in cases could be especially devastating for the rural community, so McDaniel says to any prospective visitors who may be sick, Yosemite and Mariposa County will still be there to visit when you are feeling healthy.