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Entrepreneurs, visitors happy as Yosemite reopens

LOS ANGELES – Yosemite National Park, the reopening may not be fast enough for Douglas Shaw.

The 20-day closure during the peak tourist season in one of the most visited parks in the united states costs Shaw $200,000 in lost revenue in his 120-person hotel just outside Yosemite. The majority of the park is to reopen Tuesday.

The nearly three weeks of closure was the result of a huge wildfire that has burned 150 square miles (389 sq. km) and two fire-fighters killed since the beginning of the 13 July.

During that time, Shaw wiped out his savings account, and to dismiss eight of the 43 employees, and he is considering early retirement to avoid a potential future with similar devastating forest fires in the area.

“If I had not saved, that is exhausted, I would be scrambling for money or I wouldn’t have a business,” Shaw said Monday. “It’s a huge setback.”

Shaw is one of the hundreds of entrepreneurs in small communities around Yosemite, which are dependent on tourist dollars. Tens of thousands of visitors from around the world canceled trips to the region as a result of the closure of the park, which began on 25 July.

The Ferguson Fire is one of the many devastating brands that have emerged in the past few weeks and have killed at least a dozen people, the latest, a fireman from Utah who died on Monday while battling a blaze north of San Francisco.

In Yosemite, the Ferguson Fire reached a peak during the busiest month for tourism. The park attracts more than 600,000 during a typical August, according to the National Park Service.

Visitor bureaus in the area and the park are about the estimate of $50 million in combined tourism dollar losses, said Steve Montalto, creative director at, Visit to Yosemite and Madera County.

“From an economic point of view, it is important and important for the region,” said Montalto, a visit to one of the most popular attractions of the park, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, as it reopened Monday ahead of the Tuesday of the larger opening.

“It’s like a big breath of fresh air to be able to throw and explore this place again,” Montalto said.

While the owner of a hotel and other things are relieved about the opening, they say that the most likely weeks for the bookings to return to the normal level.

Shaw said the hotel is probably not more than 45 percent booked this week, when normally it is sold out well in advance. There were only 10 people staying there on Monday night, he said.

“As soon as the conclusion of the hit that three-week mark there is a complete panic about the board for the visitors, whether they are from Beijing, Paris and San Francisco,” he said.

Tom Lambert, who rents an apartment in the park, said he and his wife have lost about $20,000 in income as a result of the closure.

And because the apartment is located along the one entrance to Yosemite Valley will remain closed for at least a week, he said that his next booking is not until Aug. 31.

“And now people are starting to cancel in September and October we have people with questions about the cancellation of” the 55-year-old Lambert said. “It is still rough. The summer is pretty much lost.”

The park and visitor bureaus try to get the word out internationally that the park is open again. They started posting pictures of themselves and visitors attractions, together with red paddleboards that say #YosemiteNOW, and they encourage visitors to do the same.

As for the park itself, the dent in the visitor’s fees will impact park improvements, such as the repair of roads and the upgrading of facilities, said park Ranger Scott Gediman.

Because these projects are planned years in advance, Gediman said that all the improvements for this year will be covered, but that projects in the following years will be influenced, although he said it was too early to know which.

In Montana, a forest fire destroyed structures and forced evacuations Monday from the busiest part of the Glacier National Park. Park officials said the structures on the north end of Lake McDonald were lost, but they gave no details.

Although the fire near Yosemite was 86 percent, on Monday, visitors probably will notice some smoke and even flames on their way, Gediman said.

“People will not have the crystal clear blue skies they are used to,” he said.

But the smoke “is the best I’ve seen in a couple of weeks,” and the fire-effects are minimal, he added.

Although Yosemite Valley reopens Tuesday, a major route from the south, Highway 41, and a popular park attraction known as Glacier Point will remain closed for probably at least a week for the fire operations, Gediman said.

But if Gediman was walking around the park on Monday ahead of the reopening, he said that there is a renewed sense of anticipation among workers who were cleaning up campsites, and readying entrance stations.

“We are extremely excited to have the park open again,” he said. “It seems like a long time, and it is certainly very quiet.”

When Shaw heard on Friday that most of the park would be reopening Tuesday, he said that he felt pure joy.

“It is a beautiful thing,” he said. “You realize that roads are actually paved with money.”

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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