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Yosemite visitors generate millions for businesses

A new National Park Service report estimates nearly 3.7 million people visited Yosemite National Park last year and spent more than $373 million in communities surrounding the park. 

Visitation was actually down from about 4 million in 2012 due to a variety of factors. Those include everything from last year’s massive Rim Fire and federal government shutdown to rising gas prices and the state’s lingering drought, said park spokeswoman Kari Cobb.

 


Sonora antique in spotlight

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Bob Brennan (left), the Smithsonian Institution’s Paul Gardullo (center) and Gerald Howard discuss the stitching pony that will be featured in a Smithsonian exhibit. Maggie Beck / Union Democrat, Copyright 2014.
A Sonora artifact is going to be the center display piece in one of the founding exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution’s newest museum. 

A Smithsonian museum curator, Paul Gardullo, has been gathering the history of African Americans in the Mother Lode this week for the National Museum of African American History and Culture — under construction right now in Washington, D.C. 


AutoZone OK’d by supervisors

Following a lengthy appeal process, the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors gave its approval Tuesday to a proposed auto parts store in Valley Springs.

The 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Merita Callaway dissenting, came after hours of discussion regarding the planning process and highway access issues with Caltrans. 


Sonora High trustees vote to save football season

Crisis was seemingly averted Tuesday night when the Sonora Union High School District Board of Trustees approved an amended bond construction schedule that won’t destroy the home football season and isn’t expected to incur much greater cost. 

The timeline still hinges on the approval of the California Environmental Quality Act initial study for the $16.7 million upcoming projects — three building renovations, track and field resurfacing and a new aquatic center.

 


TUD lowers water-use reduction goal to 25 percent

The Tuolumne Utilities District Board of Directors was able to relax some of TUD’s Phase III water restrictions Tuesday, following recent support from the state and months of diligent conservation by customers.

The board voted 5-0 to lower the district’s water-use reduction goal from 50 to 25 percent. However, customers still face a $500 fine and potential service restrictions if they don’t reduce their usage by at least 25 percent.


Mono Way widening: Full road closure looms

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Businesses along the road construction site on Mono Way remain open for business despite traffic snarls. Maggie Beck / Union Democrat, Copyrght 2014.
Mono Way widening work continues this week, and city officials are informing drivers that a full, two-week closure starting Monday will complicate travel on the busy road.

According to the City of Sonora, a short stretch of Mono Way will be shut down from July 28 through Aug. 8 while crews replace a culvert that allows drainage under the road. The closure will occur between Roselyn Lane and Rogers Road, with no through traffic allowed until the culvert is completed.


Groveland: Conserve water or pay more

Groveland property owners with public water and sewer connections will see their bills go up beginning next month unless they cut back usage about 20 percent.

The Groveland Community Services District Board of Directors on Monday approved emergency rates for both services in response to the region’s three-year drought. 

 


Homeless must go, council decides

The city of Sonora has a new law making it a misdemeanor for homeless people to camp on public or private property.

However, the new law is set to expire at the end of the year in hopes that community leaders can come up with a more well-rounded plan to deal with the problem.

 


Forest smokejumpers attend film’s opening day

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Marcus Edwards, 5, of Sonora (right) tries on smokejumper Franki Betancourt’s helmet. Jesse Jones / Union Democrat, Copyright 2014.
The Stanislaus National Forest is using the release of “Planes 2: Fire and Rescue” — a movie with a striking resemblance to the Rim Fire — to get out the word about its “One Less Spark” fire prevention campaign. 

The agency got a few of the U.S. Forest Service smokejumpers to explain their jobs, show off their gear and answer questions from children and adults on opening day Friday at Regal Cinema 10 in Sonora.


Baker Station a jewel in college crown

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An institute class navigates rocky terrain on the Highway 108 corridor, surrounded by a mountainous landscape. Courtesy photo
 Just a handful of classes are still open for enrollment this summer at Columbia College’s High Sierra Institute, including nature photography with a National Geographic photographer.

This summer marks another season of success at the institute at the historic Baker Station. The camp is comprised of longhouse barracks and a community kitchen at the foot of Sonora Pass, 6,200 feet above sea level.

 


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