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Shutdown Means Money Down The Drain For Mountain Area

YOSEMITE — “Thank you for calling. We are currently closed due to a government shutdown of National Parks. Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you.” That’s the gist of The Wawona Hotel’s outgoing phone message, a polite yet inconclusive recording that lets callers know that the historic Wawona will reopen “as soon as possible.”

When you call the historic Ahwahnee Hotel in the Yosemite Valley, an actual person answers the phone. Today it was Cassidy, who informed the caller that, while all operations are suspended since the government threw in the towel last week, one or two people are available every day to man the phones and answer questions.

Park Ranger places a closed sign on locked bathroom door - photo by Virginia LazarCassidy at the Ahwahnee says the hotel is not taking immediate reservations, adding that once the situation in Washington D.C. is resolved to the degree that National Parks reopen, the Ahwahnee Hotel expects to be back in operation within approximately 24 hours. Meanwhile, the hotel is said to be catching up on maintenance.

The penny-thieving tendrils of the government shutdown, “partial” though it may be, are snaking their way into the pockets of many mountain residents, and others who don’t live here but would have liked to visit, if only Yosemite would open.

Among the wonderful things people like to do in Yosemite is get married, and last weekend as many as eight weddings were reportedly cancelled, rescheduled or moved due to the metaphorical lock the U.S. government has installed on the gates to our National Park. Metaphorical barriers aside, the locks on services like bathrooms in Yosemite are real.

Yosemite Closed Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau - photo by Virginia LazarHigh school sweethearts and world travelers Cleo Tung, 25, and Matthew Locascio, 27, were supposed to marry on the banks of the Merced River last weekend with Half Dome and El Capitan in the background, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

With airline tickets booked for friends and family traveling from London, Vienna and Taiwan, bride Cleo was forced to cancel her weekend-destination wedding inside majestic Yosemite in favor of a small ceremony at Malibu Creek State Park, which has the distinct advantage of being open for business. Yosemite is a special place for the couple, and they were understandably disappointed at the government-mandated venue relocation.

Cleo and Matthew may have managed to pull off a scaled-back version of their dream wedding, but that doesn’t mean too much to local vendors who are losing business due to the government shut down.

John Kilburn of Sierra Entertainment was booked six months ago to perform for Cleo and Matthew’s wedding. “This unnecessary government shutdown has affected so many people in ways we don’t think of,” says Kilburn. “In this case, I lost income from two weddings, Saturday and Sunday, which I had arranged music for. My wedding couples lost a lot more.”

Mariposa Grove - photo by Miles SabinSweet Dreams Wedding Cakery and Wedding Flowers owner Laura Zabicki has experienced the trifecta of client reactions to the shutdown: one wedding cancelled, one rescheduled to May 2014, and one is switching locations because the specific date is more important than the location. If flowers are turned back or cakes go uncut, any inconvenience and expense is absorbed not by the innocent would-be married couple, but by the just-as-innocent Sweet Dreams.

Over at Crabcakes Restaurant, also owned by Laura and husband Roman Zabicki, staff waited to hear if a tour-bus company would confirm or cancel the booking of Japanese tourists who had been scheduled to enjoy a meal, previously set for Tuesday, Oct. 8.

While Roman hoped for the former, he anticipates the latter – a cancellation – of what would be a third call to cancel this week already, from two tour companies. Between the re-routing of tour buses and the additional fall-off of transient tourists traveling on their own, Roman counts thousands of dollars in revenue lost so far.

Yosemite National Park closed during government shutdown - Oct 2013 - photo by Kellie FlanaganIn addition to the federal employees out of work, many businesses and individuals in and around town are said to be taking a hit on the books due to the government shutdown, with the possible exception of some Bass Lake businesses which may be experiencing a little uptick in sales.

It’s not only business that feels the pressure of this nearly untenable situation as D.C. enters its second week up the creek.

It flows downhill, as the saying goes, and last weekend it reached students at Yosemite High School and other schools.

According to parent Nicole White, Eastman Lake was closed last weekend when they were supposed to be hosting a cross country meet on Saturday. Eastman Lake is man-made in part by the Buchanan Dam formed across the Chowchilla River. The dam is administered by the Federal Government. Goodbye, cross country meet.

“The event was the major fundraiser of the year for a valley high school, and the coach already purchased awards and now is out the cost of the event,” says White, who is also the principal of Oak Creek Intermediate School. Referring to the valley high school’s team, White adds, “The kids’ program is seriously impacted. The domino effects of this thing are unreal.”

Read Cleo and Matthew’s story in the LA Times.

Have you been affected by the government shutdown? Tell us your story.

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Sierra News Online

Sierra News Online