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"A nightmare": Yosemite tourism industry braces for government shutdown

Small businesses bracing for potential government shutdown
Small businesses bracing for potential government shutdown 02:02

With less than a week to reach a bipartisan deal to avert a government shutdown, worry over a stalemate in Washington has already reached California. For Mariposa County, a community heavily dependent on tourism to keep small businesses afloat, the potential impacts of a disruption to federal operations could be devastating.

Liz Skelton owns Yosemite Blue Butterfly Inn, a bed and breakfast near the entrance of the park. The family-owned business is still recovering from the pandemic and when people think the park is closed, they begin cancelling vacation bookings.

 "They usually want to cancel, and they want their money back, and that becomes a nightmare, frankly," Skelton said. "They don't seem to be discussing that in any of the news stories, what the impact is on the regular taxpayer."

Over 3.5 million people visit Yosemite National Park every year, with every dollar spent on admission to the park, translating to $10 in the pocket of the local economy. Jacob Hawley, with the Mariposa Visitors Center says a shutdown can impact a crucial economic driver.

"It's these small little towns outside of these federal parks that get hit the worst on all this," Hawley said. "A lot of people with vacation rentals in Yosemite, and you have a full own shutdown, they will not be making their revenues."

The last time a government shutdown forced partial park closures was in 2018. The impacts left staff stretched thin, with cleaning and maintenance to trash and bathrooms causing disastrous impacts. The economy in and around Yosemite historically depends on the influx of visitors to keep them afloat and Skelton feels like politicians have forgotten the people they are supposed to be fighting for.

"It's politicized it, it's political. They think either Democrat or Republican, what they should be thinking is what is the best for the American citizens for the taxpayers," Skelton said.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about what could happen to the National Park system if a shutdown ensues. The decision of how to handle the impact depends on who is serving as National Park Service Director— a position currently held by Charles Sams III. It is unclear, at this point, how he would choose to handle a government shutdown and if partial or full park closures would be impacted. In 2013, under the Obama Administration, a full closure to national parks was put in place. In 2018, under Donald Trump, operations were left partially open. Both instances led to negative impacts for the region.

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