February 3, 2021 – Below is an open letter from Douglas Shaw owner of Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort to Yosemite National Park Superintendent Cicely Muldoon.
Yosemite National Park
One summer back in 1982 in San Francisco, when I was seventeen, in a gathering of close school friends, there was a discussion of illness in the City that was killing people. We debated, but had no idea that a pandemic was coming.
It was surprising to me, almost a decade later, I would be part of a team at a San Francisco hotel managing the quiet experience of a celebrity who came home to die of that illness. We were all exhausted from the experience. The grief was a summary of darkness, loneliness and despair that went way beyond that one death. Death was everywhere in those years.
Here today we witness again a similar cycle of death, poorly shared data and outreach, hatred, fear, manipulative policy, blame, extremism, politics, threats and survival. But there is another facet that was as overlooked then as it is now. The wellbeing of the living!
We are all suffering. We need to attend to ourselves. We need mental and physical health breaks. You know the recent studies show the true great benefits of public areas of recreation like Yosemite. You have celebrated these findings! You also know how much health benefits your surrounding communities and state gain from parks; for children especially: Families were playing in the 3 inches of half melted snow near our business. Children scooting sleds around in mud. These are your restrictions at work. Californians are desperately looking for respite and are caught between fearing to leave their house and acting against rules meant to protect them.
The surrounding communities are also shown to get health and fiscal benefits from parks. But at no time before has our small business felt arbitrarily shackled, threatened and derided for trying safely to provide an escape for people seeking a bit of sanity. We have served up memories in our resort, restaurant and spa for 25 years. We contribute to the local economy in jobs and taxes. We have enjoyed serving a wide range of guests. But we are letting go of very good employees now. And we are going broke. How long are these restrictions going to go on?
In those years long ago federal and local public health officials discussed quarantine in a camp for the sick but cooler heads prevailed. Today reasonable COVID precautions should be heeded for safety as well, but has Yosemite National Park gone too far? A park out of reach? Yosemite’s Administration believes that the time-honed policy of limiting access, where sensible, is best to conserve this island of majesty. However, Yosemite, like all recreational areas in purpose, should welcome and soothe us in these times. Like it has soothed me.
In order for business, visitors, and the local economy to survive, we offer the following suggestions:
- The Day-Use Pass reservation system is too severe, especially in winter. Can you allow a truly moderate one? And can the pass length be shortened to three days to allow for more access for others? We can still prevent the spread of COVID-19 safely.
- Can visitors get better access to roads and activities outside Yosemite Valley? These restrictions only crowd them in when these roads can be open.
- Can the standards, metrics and goals of the restrictions be made public? Can these be reassessed to allow for more access as the public health situation improves?
- Can a public comment period be allowed to be for consideration? We would like to be heard.
- Where are the relative public health statistics and interpretation?
- Are hard closures more about convenience for the park and it’s employees or for the convenience of visitors? If a road is clear for more than a few days why can we not access it?
We prompt this park to release strictures placed upon recreation and manage a more moderate, accessible direction to help heal the living. To give us some hope for our future.
Thanks for listening,
Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort