Park seeks solution to fulfilling visitor experiences while protecting natural resources
Yosemite National Park's surprise Tweet earlier this week announcing the decision to discontinue the reservation system for vehicle entrance during the 2023 peak season was met with both cheers and disappointment.
The tourism and hospitality industries have lost millions the past three years as a result of both the pandemic and Yosemite National Park's vehicle reservation system. International travelers found it difficult to plan, domestic travelers were frustrated with many learning about the reservations system only after they arrived, and spur-of-the-moment travelers didn't come because reservations were just not available.
But, for those who feel Yosemite has become far too crowded, particularly during the peak of the season, there is the belief that a vehicle reservation system serves to help protect the park's wildlife, history, and one-of-a-kind landscape.
Yes, it's complicated.
Many members of the business community have moved here because of what Tuolumne County; specifically, Groveland and Big Oak Flat, have to offer...incredible beauty, a quieter and more rural lifestyle with less hustle and bustle, space to breathe, and the opportunity to be part of a close knit community. At the same time, here is where those same members of the business community work hard to make a livelihood for their families. It's a delicate balance.
Park officials, recognizing the complexity of the situation, are proactively seeking a solution with input from all interested parties. "Look for an announcement in December, when we'll start seeking your help to design an approach that provides a great visitor experience while protecting Yosemite's natural and cultural resources."
Perhaps Tuolumne County Supervisor, District 4, Kathleen Haff says it best, "After three years of limited entry to Yosemite National Park for tourists near and far, I do believe this is the right decision at the right time - to establish a new baseline unfettered by impaired access. Many of our gateway businesses, especially lodging institutions, have had their livelihoods threatened during these years from lost revenue when their customers could not secure reservations into the Park. They were also the recipients of angry travelers who did not know that reservations were required. I am looking forward to the public engagement process that Yosemite will embark upon to find solutions for all aspects of this matter moving forward."
The Yosemite Hwy 120 Chamber of Commerce will continue to monitor this conversation closely and keep our members informed.
We spoke to a number of our Chamber members after hearing the news and here are just a few of their comments:
"This is the most welcome news we've had in the past few years. With the pressures of the pandemic compounded by the NPS reservation system, our business has been irretrievably damaged. While we cannot recoup lost revenue, we hope this positive news helps us and our local economy bounce back to normalcy."
Owner and Operator of Yosemite Lodging
Yosemite Westgate Lodge / Sugar Pine Ranch
"This will improve the short-term rental experience."
Tomas Hernandez, Jr.
"For our small business, the reservation system--while a good idea in theory--significantly impacted expected visitor traffic and often led to negative customer interactions with visitors who were upset about not having reservations. And as an area local, it hindered my own ability to actually enjoy the beauty of Yosemite as I felt guilty making a reservation that I would use for just one day when other visitors might stay for much longer. I'm not opposed to a future reservation system, but adjustments would need to be made and I would hope that feedback would be solicited from gateway businesses and local residents."
Chief Operating Officer/Founder
Around The Horn Brewing Company