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Restrooms + tourists = money
Manteca going after share of $354.7M in tourism dollars
The city leased parking lot along Atherton Drive at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley could be home to Yosemite bound shuttle buses. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The sound of flushing toilets one day is expected to help cash registers ring.

Poag & McEwen is preparing to move forward with constructing a large restroom complex at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley.

It is the first step in developing a Yosemite Welcome Center in Manteca.

“It’s a big deal,” said City Manager Karen McLaughlin.

That’s because the National Park Service is moving toward a plan to protect Yosemite that includes limiting the number of vehicles that can enter the national park. Once that limit is reached, the only way to get in is by bus.

There are some 800,000 Yosemite-bound tourists that pass through Manteca on the 120 Bypass each year.

The partnership being forged with Yosemite National Park along with Poag & McEwen, the City of Manteca, and the Manteca Visitors Center would make Orchard Valley the staging point for buses going to and from Yosemite National Park whether it is via Highway 120 or Highway 41.

“It makes a lot of sense,” noted Councilman Vince Hernandez. “They (the National Park Service) had been looking at Groveland and places like Oakdale. But in Manteca we are far enough away that buses can go in two different ways…. And if Yosemite National Park is closed to more visitors due to overcrowding and people don’t want to wait a day they can be directed to another nearby national park that is under used such as Sequoia.”

San Francisco is the No. 1 starting point for international and domestic tourists who access Yosemite.

Tourists would drive or take a bus to Manteca where they would make arrangements to continue traveling on a bus to the national park at the Yosemite Welcome Center. Such a center could also have a park ranger assigned to it to share with visitors what they can expect when they arrive at the heart of Yosemite Valley some 88 miles from Manteca. The rangers wouldn’t run the center. Instead, that would be left up to the Manteca Visitors Center. 

Hernandez said that sets the stage for overnight stays in Manteca hotels such as the Hampton Inn that is located adjacent to the Orchard Valley parking lot that will be used for Yosemite bound shuttle busses.

Hernandez said such tourists could also access restaurants and other attractions such as Bass Pro Shops, Delicato Vineyards, and the emerging outlet mall at Orchard Valley. Should Great Wolf Resort build and the family entertainment center adjacent to Big league Dreams a little over a mile award go forward, it would dovetail into the Yosemite Welcome Center plan.

A 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.

The final draft plan by the National Park Service Planning Department calls for keeping the number of valley visitors at its current 19,900 a day, while adding shuttle buses to reduce traffic and altering some roadways to reduce congestion that can be as bad in the summer as cities see during rush hour.

More than 4 million people visit each year, and most go to the 8-square-mile valley.

The proposed changes, which would cost $235 million, would reroute traffic to make it flow more smoothly and create a pedestrian underpass connecting Yosemite Lodge with the trail to Yosemite Falls, an area of heavy foot traffic that results in lengthy traffic jams.

 Park officials hope to have final approval by July and work completed over the next 15 years.

Under the plan, the park would increase the number of campsites in the valley by 37 percent — from 466 to 640 — by opening up new areas and rebuilding on higher ground some sites lost to flooding in 1997. The Sugar Pine Bridge, one of three historic stone bridges spanning the river, would be removed.

Park planners sought to eliminate non-essential activities such as ice skating, bike and raft rentals and the valleys’ equestrian concession in an effort to add more parking and campsites in a place where lodging is at a premium.

Visitors would still be allowed to raft the river using their own equipment, but would be directed to specific access areas to keep steep banks from being trampled and eroded.

The National Parks Conservation Association praised the draft plan for being comprehensive and balanced.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail