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Manteca working to create Yosemite visitors center at Orchard Valley
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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.

Manteca happens to set on the Northern Gateway route of Highway 120 that is used by foreign and domestic tourists alike who pay a visit to the world famous Sierra Park as part of vacations to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Manteca is now working on a plan in partnership with Yosemite area businesses to possibly establish a Yosemite visitors’ center in Manteca’s Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley.

The plan – now in the talking stage – would be aimed at helping promote Yosemite tourism, provide information, and even possibly sell tickets to the park. The Manteca Visitors Center is working with their counterparts in the high Sierra as well as City of Manteca Economic Development Specialist Don Smail to determine if the proposal is do-able.

It could mean a larger footprint for a combined Manteca/Yosemite visitors’ 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.

As plans proceed to reduce congestion in Yosemite Valley, the establishment of a visitors’ center in Manteca could lead to it to being a transit center for tourists.

Manteca Visitors Chief Executive Officer Juliene Flanders noted a Yosemite visitors’ center not only would help promote businesses around the national park but it would also benefit Manteca businesses.

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

“People have to eat and they love to shop,” Flanders said.

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.

Manteca Visitors Center marketing representative Suzanne Clemens noted Manteca is already a natural fit for Yosemite tourism.

One of Clemens’ first jobs was helping manage the Oakwood Lake Resort that was part of Manteca Waterslides. There were 350 RV spaces plus four community rooms and a grocery store. She noted a large number of guests stopped at the Manteca facility on their way to and from Yosemite.