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Manteca to Yosemite via bus
Orchard Valley may land Yosemite Welcome Center
A Yosemite Welcome Center may open in The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca is making a play to become a boarding point for bus shuttle service to ferry tourists to Yosemite National Park.

The City of Manteca along with Poag & McEwen and the Manteca Visitors Center are working with the National Park Service to establish a Yosemite Welcome Center in Manteca.

It is part of a goal to reduce park congestion while addressing the ever increasing international travel to Yosemite National Park.

Park rangers during the heavy travel season would be at the center that would be located in the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley at the 120 Bypass and Union Road. They would not staff the center per se - that would be up to the Manteca Visitors Center. Instead they would offer programs on what visitors can expect when they arrive at the heart of Yosemite Valley some 88 miles from Manteca.

Many of the tourists that go to Yosemite from the Bay Area via Highway 120 are international travelers.

Manteca Economic Developer Don Smail told the City Council Thursday that Orchard Valley developer Poag & McEwen is on board. The firm is not only working at providing space but is preparing to construct a 3,500-square-foot public restroom for use by those using Orchard Valley as the jumping point for their Yosemite venture as well as for lifestyle center shoppers.

Most of those expected to use the welcome center and bus service to the park would be tourists who arrive in California via Bay Area airports.  They could take either rental cars or various public transit systems to reach Manteca including Altamont Commuter Express Service.

Smail noted that if a Manteca deal can’t successfully be put together, the fallback position for the park service could be in Livermore.

The park service is working to reduce congestion and air pollution in Yosemite. One key way is to have tourists park cars at points outside the park and grab shuttle buses to go to and from Yosemite.

Manteca’s location on the northern gateway - Highway 120 - and its proximity to the Bay Area and Sacramento made it a leading candidate. The fact Manteca is trying to develop synergy around Bass Pro Shops, the outlet stores as they open, and Big League Dreams also helps enhance the plan for a Manteca Yosemite Welcome center.

It would dovetail into the proposed Great Wolf Resort and indoor water park with conference center as well as the envisioned family entertainment zone on Daniels Street west of Costco.

 More than 4 million people make their way to Yosemite National Park each year.

A study conducted on national park tourism indicates Yosemite tourists spent $354.7 million in 2010 at the park and in various gateway communities.

The proposal could mean a larger footprint for a combined Manteca Visitors/Yosemite Welcome Center at Orchard Valley. That would dovetail with the retail complex owners’ plans of having more than 40 premium outlet stores at Orchard Valley plus eight free-standing restaurants in addition to Bass Pro Shops.

There are four gateway communities to Yosemite on the western side of the Sierra: Manteca for the northern entrance to Yosemite, Merced for the western entrance and Madera as well as Fresno for the southern entrance.

If such a center is put in place, the Manteca Visitors Center would step up its current efforts to direct tourists to restaurants and business that are away from the freeway corridor.

The national parks study noted tourism dollars associated with Yosemite supported 4,600 jobs in 2010. The report indicated 52 percent of the $354.7 million spent went to lodging, food, and beverage operations while 28 percent went to retail stores with 10 percent going to amusements and entertainment. Rounding off the list was gas and local transportation at 7 percent and groceries at 2 percent.

A California tourism study shows that the typical foreign tourist visiting Yosemite is from Asia and spends an average of $5,000 per person while they are here.