Mariposa County businesses welcome impending return of tourists to Yosemite

The animals roaming all over Yosemite in recent months are about to get some extra company starting Thursday morning.
MARIPOSA, Calif. (KFSN) -- The animals that have been roaming all over Yosemite National Park in recent months are about to get some extra company starting Thursday morning.

"The gates are going to open at 5 a.m., and things are going to be a little different this year," says Yosemite National Park spokesperson Jamie Richards.

The national park will allow in up to 1,700 vehicles that have made reservations for day passes through recreation.gov, in addition to up to 1,900 vehicles for overnight guests. Officials say that's about 50% of the typical June entry rate. Businesses in nearby Mariposa are looking forward to seeing the return of those visitors.

"We've definitely needed it, especially being in a small tourist town, we rely on tourism quite a bit so getting it back open is exciting for the community," says Spencer Arebalo with the Miners Inn.

Hotels there have been hit exceptionally hard by the pandemic, with some temporarily shutting down and others serving only essential employees. They are now allowed to re-open, but rooms must remain vacant for 24 hours after each guest before they can even be cleaned, and reservations will be limited.

"For the first week we're only allowed to open for 25% capacity, then weeks 2 and 3 we'll be able to open to 50% capacity then after that, the county will reevaluate our numbers and we'll go from there," says Arebalo.

Supervisor Kevin Cann says the county has been losing about $86,000 a day in June from the transient occupancy tax alone. He believes the limited reopening of Yosemite will help save some businesses that may not have survived much longer without tourists, while still being cautious to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"We've done exhaustive planning. We're really looking forward to kicking it off tomorrow and Friday and this weekend, and we're ready to react as necessary, and certainly the businesses in the gateway communities are really ready to welcome the visitors back," says Mariposa County Supervisor Kevin Cann.

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