By John Paul Valdez
Ninety two people have been furloughed and ten more concession stand workers along with them, but the biggest loss is to the hundreds of visitors who are just beginning to book their winter vacations that would have included Joshua Tree National Park to the tune of a good part of $30 million a day.
That is the figure that is placed by those that count the amount all the national parks make in the continental US combined during this part of the high season, and Joshua Tree is among the top three with Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Big Bear is another closer park setting, but not as big of a draw as the others mentioned.
Still, the shutdown causes a ripple all the way through the winter because airplane tickets and hotels are booked now, and uncertainty in prices on tickets later is not conducive to family vacation planning in a necessarily new pocketbook friendly environment.
This means the hotels and the sales that result from purchases by those visiting the area are all lost too. On the revenue side of government these result in TOT taxes collected from the hotels (one of local government’s principal sources of revenue) and lost sales taxes on top of that.
This comes at a time when cities like Desert Hot Springs have forecast huge increases in hotel stays to keep afloat through the next fiscal year, numbers which were already challenged as optimistic. Their current budgetary shortfall is in the millions and optimistic estimates were needed to show some financial stability. Persons seeking a mineral springs or Joshua Tree stay are more likely to pick a DHS hotel over a PS hotel which would be further and likely more expensive. DHS will likely lose several hundred thousand of estimated revenues just on this news alone. That is how critical this government shutdown is right here in the valley. People often see a government shut down as something far away, or something that doesn’t touch them.
For the high desert, this is a crippling blow, and every day that the government remains closed is a bat to the knees of local shop keepers who just want the visitors to have fond memories of their stay in this special area of the world.
Regardless of your political stripes, the impasse means a direct pocketbook loss for everyone in this area and the impasse is from Federal all the way down to local government where decisions are often fought out with gavels and cameras and profanity on TV. This writer can only hope for better.