Responding to reports of uncollected trash and human waste in Yosemite National Park during the partial federal government shutdown, the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau will have volunteers hand out trash bags to visitors at the Big Oak Flat/Highway 120 entrance starting Saturday.

“Tuolumne County really counts on tourism,” Katie Kirkland, the communications manager for the bureau, said Thursday in a phone interview. “We’re trying to do our part to keep the national park open.”

The bureau is organizing the volunteer effort to try to help with “trash issues taking place in Yosemite due to the federal government shutdown” and plans to work Highway 108 corridor businesses “to create a game plan for assisting with trash pick up in the Pinecrest area,” Lisa Mayo with the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau said in a letter to members and partners.

For the next two weeks, and perhaps longer if needed, people with the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau will provide trash bags and tips on how to visit Yosemite during the shutdown, Mayo said. The tips list will include the names and addresses of businesses that have offered dumpsters so visitors can dispose of their trash bags.

Mayo says each visitor will also get a “Tuolumne County is Too Cool to Trash” decal and an invitation to come back and visit again.

People with the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau hope to have at least two volunteers per day at the Big Oak Flat/Highway 120 entrance to Yosemite from 9 a.m. to noon each day beginning Saturday, Mayo said.

As of Thursday, Yosemite National Park remained open during the partial federal government shutdown, with hundreds of park employees on furlough, unstaffed ranger kiosks, reduced services, uncollected trash and locked bathrooms in some areas.

On Wednesday, a park information officer announced there will be limited access to the park along the Highway 41 corridor from the Wawona entrance to Badger Pass Road “due to continuing issues with human waste and resource damage.”

Rangers planned to staff a checkpoint at the south entrance to Yosemite from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, and anyone arriving at the checkpoint with a reservation for lodging or camping inside the park would be allowed in. For now, all other visitors are being asked to enter Yosemite via the Highway 140 entrance at El Portal. People planning to visit Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area are being asked to enter the park via Highway 140.

Visitor services are limited due to the lapse in federal appropriations, Yosemite National Park communications staff said. During the government shutdown, “national parks are working to remain as open and accessible to the American people as possible,” the Wednesday announcement from Yosemite said.

Facilities and areas inside Yosemite National Park that are closed due to impacts from human waste and public safety concerns include Wawona Campground, Hodgdon Meadow Campground, Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Crane Flat Snow Play Area, and the Goat Meadow Snow Play Area just outside the south entrance of Yosemite National Park. All park visitor centers remain closed.

All normal park rules and regulations still apply and violators will be cited, according to park communications staff. Dogs are not permitted on park trails. Dogs must be on leashes at all times and are allowed in developed areas, on sidewalks, and on bicycle paths.

Restroom facilities are limited in the park, especially on Highway 41, Highway 140 and Big Oak Flat Road. Visitors are urged to stop and use restroom facilities in gateway communities before entering the park. Visitors are also urged to practice leave no trace principles if they have to defecate in the woods, and to pack in and pack out all trash. Custodial services are also limited during the government shutdown.

All roads in the park are subject to chain control or temporary closures due to winter driving conditions. Motorists are required to carry tire chains in their vehicles, even those with four-wheel drive, during winter months.

Park Service staff say more facilities and areas in Yosemite National Park may close at any time to protect the health and safety of park visitors.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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