Businesses around national parks fear further revenue loss

FRESNO, California

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks will reopen first thing Thursday. Yosemite announced it opened Wednesday night.

But businesses around there have already laid off workers and expect massive revenue losses to continue through winter. The steady stream of tourism dollars in Three Rivers is practically running dry. Vacancy signs are lit up at every lodge and hotel in this town.

"Mostly last week everyone called and they cancelled their reservations for the next two months," said The Gateway owner Glenn McIntyre. "So October is gone, November is gone."

McIntyre can only describe the park closure as catastrophic. His restaurant is usually full in October, finding a seat now is not a problem. What is a problem are layoffs. Eight Gateway employees lost their jobs this week during tearful meetings, including one whose problems are only getting worse.

"I laid him off and he drove half a mile down the road and a deer jumped out in front of his car," McIntyre said. "So now he doesn't have a job and doesn't have a car. Those are the types of stories the president and congress don't hear."

The Gateway and neighboring Buckeye Tree Lodge each only had one room booked for Wednesday night.

Newlyweds from Chicago decided against cancelling their honeymoon to Sequoia National Park. "We've never been up here before and we figured we'd give it a shot and see what happens," Heidi Osselaer of Chicago.

"We have been calling our quests that made cancellations and trying to get them to rebook rooms and come back up here while the weather is beautiful and nice up here," said Dennis Villavicencio, owner of Buckeye Tree Lodge. He has cut his workers' hours following 70 room cancellations. He says so far the 16-day government shutdown has cost him $50,000.

"They really don't know what it's like here to have your business, not just us but our entire town, pulled out from under us," Villavicencio said.

Further north, the gates to Yosemite National Park are back open but getting services up and running will take time. Campsites and hotels should be ready by Thursday but restaurants will take a few days to restock.

"We have been having those conversations with our vendors in advance, but there's still a transition of re-opening, and it will be a phased approach to re-opening," said Lisa Cesaro of the Delaware North Companies, a YNP concessioner.

Yosemite officials tell Action News they are planning for a busy weekend now that the park is open. The lodge owners we talked with will be grateful for any additional business but they're planning for losses through the end of the year.

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