YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. - Business owners near Yosemite National Park are breathing easier today. The air, which had been hazardous from the nearby Creek fire, has cleared. And the park has reopened.
Still, the losses from an 8 day closure have been tremendous. Matthew Hamlett runs Yosemite Vacation Homes.
"This month we were over basically $300,000 in revenue for this month. And after this fire happened, we've had so many cancellations, we went down to about $25-thousand in revenue," says Hamlett.
They had already weathered a 3 month park closure due to COVID-19. And then this: smoke. The EPA considers anything over 150 on their index, hazardous. The reading in Yosemite last week was a whopping 785.
"It's been a really really tough year for gateway communities around Yosemite," says Tony McDaniel of the Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau.
So in Mariposa County, they're hoping tourists will come back. And they've got two things working in their favor, much improved air quality and a move into California's yellow tier, meaning minimal risk for COVID-19.
"And a county like ours where tourism is the economy, you need people to be here to support that. And without that, people are hurting. And we need people to come back," says McDaniel.
And Friday, they were. With the reopening, Yosemite announced more available campgrounds. Upper Pines had been open previously. Now Lower and North Pines will be too.
"We have visitors here in the park for days recreation, for overnight camping. It's really wonderful to see so many people taking advantage of the reopening," says Jamie Richards, a park ranger and spokesperson with Yosemite National Park.
At Yosemite Vacation Homes, they're hoping they'll book up fast. Though, they didn't let their properties stand empty during the fires.
"All the homes that had cancellations, we opened up to evacuated people for free," says Hamlett.
Reservations for the campgrounds at Yosemite, and for daily park entry, are required. And tourism officials say with fewer crowds, fall will be a good time to go.