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Delaware North employees back at work in Wawona Hotel

Monday, October 14, 2013

National parks in Central California are missing out on a normally busy holiday weekend because of the government shutdown. But some guests are heading back to Yosemite thanks to the re-opening of one historic hotel.

Very few visitors passed through Yosemite on Columbus Day, but dozens of employees are back to work at the Wawona Hotel. And other staff members are busy doing maintenance projects while the park remains virtually empty.

Signs of the government shutdown can be found throughout Yosemite, from the empty trails to the two week old newspapers. The doors to the Awahnee hotel are secured with a chain and padlock. But the historic Wawona Hotel is now back open and visitors are starting to take advantage.

"Yesterday we had a few locals that came out for dinner, and I think things are starting to pick up as far as momentum, and we've actually had people that had reservations for Yosemite Valley over this coming week who have moved down to Wawona because they still want the Yosemite experience, which is great," said Lisa Cesaro with Delaware North Companies.

Cesaro is a spokesperson for Delaware North Companies, which operates many of Yosemite's facilities. She says the Wawona Hotel and general store were allowed to re-open Saturday because they sit on a major highway and do not need support from the park service.

"It's a beautiful property. Fall is a great time to be there. So it's exciting to see something re-open, and we're looking forward to seeing the rest of the park re-open as well," Cesaro said.

About 1,100 Delaware North employees are out of work as the shutdown continues, but the remaining 350 are now staffing the Wawona and places like the village store, which serve other workers and residents. They're also using this quiet time to do some painting and other upgrades.

"We have a big project going up at badger pass ski area right now; where we're doing the old deck surface area the interior of the lodge is getting an upgrade as well."

But there's no doubt, Delaware North park employees, and visitors from around the world are anxious for Yosemite to re-open.

"It's been tough on us, we were hoping to go through a few more places here, but we'll just have to see what we can see today," said Jeremy Davies from England.

Other states are now using their own money to open some national parks and monuments. But officials say they're not expecting that to happen in Yosemite.

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Tags:
wawona, yosemite national park, budget battle, local, sara sandrik
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