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Wawona Hotel opens despite Yosemite National Park closure

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The government shutdown is impacting national parks in Central California, including Sequioa, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite. Some employees that work for the national parks are back to work after being furloughed for 13 days.

Staff members at the Wawona Hotel said they are grateful to be able to work again. For two weeks the hotel stayed closed because of the impasse in Washington. Over the weekend the first guests checked into the hotel. However, the guests will have to follow certain rules because the park is still technically closed.

The historic Wawona Hotel is a Central California treasure. Since the mid-1800's travelers including John Muir and even President Theodore Roosevelt have stopped in after soaking up the breathtaking views of Yosemite National Park, but these days the usually bustling building is nearly empty.

"It's kind of sad to see the Wawona sitting quietly. It's sad because it's such a charming place for people to visit," said Tom Bopp with the Wawona Hotel.

Bopp works at the Wawona hotel and hopes to see more visitors fill up the rooms. On October 1 the entire park shut down and so did the sprawling white hotel. That's until this weekend when a small loophole was discovered and the Wawona re-opened even though the park did not.

"It's a wistful sort of happiness because the park isn't open as a whole but at least people can come here and enjoy the charm of this place," Bopp said.

The reason the Wawona can operate is because the building is located near a main highway even though it's on federal land. Every staff member at the Wawona hatel works for a private company, so they are not on the government payroll.

"It's two weeks, I am ready to get back to work,"" said furloughed employee Gary Wuchner.

Wuchner's government job was considered non-essential. He and his friends came out to support the hotel and share their frustrations about the deadlock in the nation's capital.

"I wish they would think of the people instead of their political futures," said Pat Sischo from Wawona.

Even though about 30 employees got to work again Sunday hundreds of others who work in the park are still on furlough. Park rangers are reminding anyone who stays at the hotel all trails inside Yosemite are still closed because the park is still shutdown.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
wawona, yosemite national park, budget battle, local, mariana jacob
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