Mariposa & Yosemite

Yosemite staff going to work after shutdown. But when park will be normal is ‘day-to-day’

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.

After more than a month in a partial federal government shutdown, workers were starting to trickle back into nearby national parks over the weekend, as officials expected the seasonal visits to resume and workers to get paid again.

On Sunday, Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman was making calls and planning staff meetings for workers who were expected to return to the park Monday after 35 days away. Gediman, who worked through the shutdown without pay, said the park saw partial staffing during the weekend before the entire workforce arrived.

Entrance to Yosemite through Highway 41 remains limited. Visit Yosemite Madera County had reported that the south entrance into the park was also open to residents and those with confirmed reservations. Otherwise, visitors were directed to enter via Highway 140 or through Big Oak Flat entrance from Highway 120.

Gediman said limits on the Highway 41 entrance were expected to be lifted in the “next several days” once workers had a chance to return and clean up. Just like the uncertainty over how long the country’s longest government shutdown would last, it was difficult for Gediman to say when exactly all park functions would return to normal.

Much of the focus was in getting the nearly 500-member staff back in order.

“It’s literally a day-by-day thing,” Gediman said.

Because the park had not closed completely during the shutdown, Gediman said the Mist Trail was closed off because not enough rangers were on hand to keep visitors safe. Reports of trash and human waste made things worse for the few remaining staffers during the shutdown. But, maintenance workers, office staff and visitor protection rangers are expected to return this week.

However, questions still linger regarding how long the workers would stay on the job. Last Friday, President Donald Trump signed a continuing resolution that would keep the government fully funded for three weeks as lawmakers continued their discussions on immigration.

Trump threatened to shut down the government once again after three weeks if Congressional leaders continue to deny funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. He also threatened to use executive powers to get the wall funding one way or the other.

Gediman said visitors to Yosemite should expect to some limits to trails, office hours and services, as workers who are just returning begin to ramp up “meaningful operations.”

South of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks spokeswoman Sintia Kawasaki-Yee also announced Sunday that the parks were resuming full operations starting Tuesday. Park employees started returning to work during the weekend and were dusting off the visitor center and entrance stations to begin collecting park fees and assisting tourists.

Operations at the park were limited during the shutdown, like in all others. Visitors at the parks still had access, but the parks were not collecting fees from those visits. And some parks closed off some areas due to the lapse in supervision.

Kings Canyon National Park’s Azalea campground and other areas that are typically open in the winter stayed open amid the shutdown. Reservations at Sequoia National Park’s Potwisha campground will resume reservations on Jan. 30.

Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado: 559-441-6304, @cres_guez