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Recreation options limited

The Tuttletown Recreation area is closed because of the government shutdown. Maggie Beck / Union Democrat, Copyright 2013.
This weekend could be a perfect time to explore the great indoors.

That’s because a number of popular outdoor destinations will likely remain closed because of the federal government’s shutdown.

The National Park Service has shuttered Yosemite National Park. All visitors were ordered to leave by 3 p.m. Thursday. Only through-traffic traveling from one side of the park to the other is allowed past the entrance stations. 

Recreation areas on the Stanislaus National Forest and lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have been closed as well, including New Melones Reservoir, a popular spot for fishing and boating.

Business owners like Melanie Lewis, owner of Glory Hole Sports, a tackle shop near the reservoir’s entrance, said they are still reeling from the Rim Fire, which in its first weeks hampered tourism.

“The lake is our biggest tourist draw here in Angels Camp,” Lewis said.

She said the Rim Fire, while miles away, caused enough thick smoke to drive many would-be lake goers away. The store took in about $15,000 less than what it normally does in the month of September.

Lewis hoped a strong October would turn things around before the winter season.

Boat owners at New Melones Lake Marina will have access to the facility until Monday, according to Yvonne Cantrell, vice president of Water Resorts, Inc., which manages the marinas at New Melones and Shasta Lake for Houseboats.com.

Cantrell said the company would be contacting boat owners to inform them of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Thursday decision to cut off all access to the reservoir.

“We were told they were going to be allowed to come in and button up their houseboats for the season, but now things have changed and we’re being told that no one will be allowed in after Monday,” Cantrell said. “We’re hoping this gets resolved soon so it doesn’t further impact our business.”

She said company officials hope employees will be allowed to access the marina and continue preparations for the winter season after Monday.

In Yosemite, 660 employees have been placed on furlough until further notice while 160 law enforcement, maintenance and emergency services workers remain on staff, according to park spokesman Scott Gediman.

Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts manages concessions within the park, including the popular Ahwahnee Hotel, which people were forced to leave on Thursday. DNC Spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro said the concessionaire employs about 1,450 people in the park. 

Cesaro said some DNC employees may not be scheduled due to the lack of work while the shutdown is in effect, though she didn’t have a specific number. She said those employees could either take vacation time or file for temporary unemployment.

Meanwhile, just outside Yosemite, businesses that suffered from the loss of traffic to the park during the Rim Fire are in a similar predicament.

 Corrina Loh, owner of the historic Iron Door Saloon in Groveland, said business was down 75 percent while Highway 120 was closed for the Rim Fire from mid-August to early September.

Loh said other businesses along the typically well-traveled corridor suffered similar losses.

“We were just finally bouncing back a little and then this happens,” she said of the park’s shutdown.

Nanci Sikes, executive director of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau, noted that state parks in the area, including Columbia State Historic Park and Railtown 1897, are still open. She also said visitors can travel through Yosemite but can’t make stops along the way.

Sikes said the bureau has been reminding tourists who were planning a trip to Yosemite that all of the area’s historic towns — such as Sonora, Jamestown, Groveland and Columbia — remain intact and accessible. 

“Yes, the fire was devastating, but if you were here you wouldn’t even know there had been a fire. And even if they can’t spend the time they really wanted to spend in Yosemite, we’re hoping that they will still come and return again when they have full access to the national parks,” she said.

Sikes added that the bureau is hoping for a resolution to the shutdown soon, as bureau representatives have several expo stops planned this month where they promote the county as a tourism destination to travel company operators.

Much of the Stanislaus National Forest remains accessible.

Ever popular Pinecrest Lake is accessible, even though the campgrounds and restrooms are closed.

 The Pinecrest Resort — including its cabins and boat rentals —  remains open, according to Laurie Cashman, the resort’s general manager.

“The weather is gorgeous, the lake level is still good and people can launch from the marina,” she said.

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