Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, along with local businesses and volunteers, have set up at the Yosemite National Park Highway 120 entrance gate to offer information, hand out trash bags, and encourage visitors to “pack it in and pack it out” removing their own trash and picking up extra rubbish. Locations along Hwy 120 such as the Groveland Hotel, Rush Creek Lodge, and Miner’s Mart are all also handing out trash bags and acting as collection points for the garbage bags upon visitors’ return. The County’s catchy phrase “Tuolumne County, Too Cool To Trash!” is a reminder that we, the public, are the real stewards of our public lands.
In 2013, when the government came to a standstill, National Parks were all shut down. This time some of the National Parks have remained open to visitors – Yosemite included. However, without government employees staffing the parks, several issues have arisen.
- There are no park rangers at the gates, therefore no fees are being collected. This may seem like a good thing, however, guests are also not receiving information on the park, what activities and services are available, and suggestions on how to best navigate the area, as well, all Visitor Centers are closed. The National Park Service website is also not being updated and maintained with current information.
- With no staffing, services in the park are very limited, such as trash removal and maintaining restroom facilities. With holiday visitors still heading into the park, trash in some areas is piling up and overflowing, and bathrooms are best avoided. Unfortunately, there have been reports of trash littering the roadways, and human waste has been found along the corridors leading into and out of the park. However, reports from recent guests stated that the trash problem appears to be overstated, as they didn’t find any evidence – though they were prepared to do some roadside garbage pick up.
- Without employee oversite in the park, many rules are being disregarded and broken – rules set up to protect people, wildlife and the park. Campgrounds are being trashed, which is unsightly and attracts wild animals; wilderness areas are seeing more dogs (click here for park rules on pets); and trails are being abused.
- Not having government workers means that there is no snow removal on Highway 120, the north-western gateway into Yosemite National Park, sporadically closing this entrance into the park and impacting travelers and businesses along the way.
- To protect sensitive locations in the park, all the groves of giant sequoia trees (Mariposa Grove, Merced Grove, and Tuolumne Meadows Grove), have been closed to the public, as has the Hetch Hetchy Valley. An alternative destination to see these magnificent trees is a visit to the Calaveras Big Trees State Park off Highway 4. Open daily from sunrise to sunset, it is well worth the drive.
- Due to congestion, access through the southern park entrance on Highway 41 has been limited to residents and their guests only. All other visitors are being asked to enter Yosemite using the Highway 140 entrance via El Portal Road.
In spite of the above, Yosemite Valley is open and magnificent! Responsible visitors will find pristine landscapes if they venture even a short distance beyond the main loop road. Don’t let the lack of park services disappoint you – Yosemite is all about open spaces and awe-inspiring vistas. Get outside and let it take your breath away!
(Early Winter in Yosemite, taken from Tunnel View. Photo credit: M. Vance)