Northern California Slowly Getting Back to Business After Historic Firesby Jessica Montevago
Record-setting wildfires ravaged parks in California this summer, scorching a combined 626,000 acres across the northern part of the state.
Now, as communities assess the damage and begin to pick up the pieces, travel officials are encouraging travelers to support the area by keeping their travel plans and visiting the region.
On Tuesday, Visit California President & CEO Caroline Beteta announced that conditions in the High Sierra region around Yosemite National Park have allowed Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to reopen. These areas of the national park closed during peak tourist season on July 25 during the Ferguson Fire.
"Today's reopening of Yosemite Valley is immensely encouraging — both for the thousands of travelers with plans to visit the area this summer and the communities that rely on visitors to fuel their economies,” Beteta said, emphasizing that although other wildfires continue to burn in some remote areas of the state, California is safe to visit.
In Redding, the area hardest hit in the county seat of Shasta County, the Carr Fire is now 72 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. The fire burned more than 215,000 acres, destroying 1,077 residences and killing at least seven people.
Laurie Baker, CEO for the Redding CVB and general manager of the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Association (SCWA), said those desiring to visit the area are encouraged to return in full force to support local businesses.
The Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau highlighted its tourist attractions that are open. The city is home to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which includes an arboretum, botanical gardens and a museum with natural history exhibits. Spanning the Sacramento River, the famed Sundial Bridge is a suspension bridge that also acts as a huge, working sundial. To the west, Shasta State Historic Park holds the ruins of an 1800’s gold-rush mining town.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, however, is closed until further notice. The area, with its lakes and mountains, attracts outdoor travelers for its waterfalls, pristine mountain creeks, 70 miles of trails, and opportunities to explore the history of the California Gold Rush.
Baker told the New York Times that limiting outdoor physical activity due to unhealthy smoke levels is still required in areas, including Mount Shasta and Redding. She told the Times, “Where we might go on a four-hour hike, we’re waiting, most of us, until September. By then, the air quality should be fine.”
Lodging properties, which have hosted firefighters and evacuees alike, are open for business, as are retailers and restaurants in the area.
The Ranch fire in northern Mendocino, Lake and Colusa counties — the largest in California’s history — is 72 percent contained and covers 321,000 acres, as of Friday, most of it in Mendocino National Forest.
According to Visit Mendocino County, the issue will now be to turn around consumer perception, as it receives questions whether businesses in the county are open. “We want to let everyone know that they are,” according to its Facebook. “Most of the county is unaffected by the fires, and most road access is completely open — so please still do come visit!”