President Barack Obama and his family will spend Father’s Day weekend enjoying the grandeur of Yosemite National Park after starting their mini-vacation with a stop at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
It is, said Christy Goldfuss, a head start on the centennial anniversary of the national park system. The National Park Service officially turns 100 on Aug. 25.
“The first family is celebrating early for Father’s Day,” Goldfuss, managing director at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said during a Thursday conference call with reporters.
Obama’s trip marks the first visit to Yosemite of a sitting president since John F. Kennedy came in 1962.
Thousands of tourists will also enjoy it with them, almost all of whom made reservations months ago.
The first family is celebrating early for Father’s Day.
Christy Goldfuss, managing director, White House Council on Environmental Quality
Expect a busy weekend in Yosemite Valley.
With or without Obama, Mariposa Chamber of Commerce CEO Dane Carlson said, it will be a madhouse.
“Every weekend in the summer is always busy,” he said. “Everything’s sold out. If you haven't planned ahead, you are very unlikely to find a place.”
Still, Obama’s visit will likely kick everything up a notch, from the inconveniences to the tourists with an unexpected tale to tell about their weekend.
White House officials are encouraging people to get into the park before 8 a.m. If not, they should wait until after 6 p.m. to avoid traffic congestion. All camping permits are being honored.
The hope is to keep the disruptions of the president’s visit to a minimum, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said during the Thursday conference call.
Jewell said there are three priorities for the Obama administration: make public lands relevant to all Americans, think big on conservation and continue to invest in public lands because they return important economic benefits to the communities that surround them.
Obama likely will use the coming centennial celebrations to encourage people to visit the nation’s national parks, forests and monuments. As part of that, he’ll likely talk about the Every Kid in a Park program, which was launched by Obama last September.
Under the program, fourth-graders can download a pass that gives them and their families free access to all federally managed lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries.
Obama will also likely discuss the coming challenges for the National Park System, especially related to climate change.
“Today more than ever we know that climate change is one of the biggest threats we face,” Goldfuss said.
Still, it is likely that a good part of Obama’s excursion will be more vacation than official visit, as he takes in the wonders of Yosemite Valley.