A group of homeowners near Yosemite will be expected to leave the area without compensation, the Fresno Bee reported. And if they’re caught living on the premises after 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, March 13, they could face six months of imprisonment or $5,000 fines for trespassing and illegally residing on federal land.
Residents of the El Portal Trailer Park — many of whom work retail and maintenance jobs and are nearing retirement age — have called Yosemite National Park’s decision “heartless.”
“We’re all stressed. I see my mom cry every single day. It’s not right,” Luke Harbin told the outlet. His mother has lived in the mobile home community and worked in the Yosemite area for 38 years.
Following the National Park Service’s December 2021 announcement to oust the residents, GoFundMe campaigns and Change.org petitions have been launched on their behalf. The campaign has raised just over $1,000 out of its $100,000 goal, and the petition, “Stop the inhumane eviction of our community members at the El Portal Trailer Court,” has garnered about 2,100 signatures. Despite residents’ repeated attempts to hold group meetings with the park service and speak with Superintendent Cicely Muldoon, the Bee reports that communication has been difficult, fragmented and frustrating.
Per the outlet, Harbin’s mother left Muldoon multiple voicemails and emails requesting a 30-day extension so she could remove her belongings after vacating the property. When they finally met in person outside of Muldoon’s office in early February, Harbin says he and his mother left early due to the park service’s callousness toward her.
Other residents have reported experiencing the same treatment from Muldoon.
Four trailer park residents who attended a recent El Portal Planning Advisory Committee phone conference meeting said they also left multiple messages for the superintendent. And, like Harbin, they asked for an extension but hadn’t heard back. While Harbin’s mother finally received the extension, and some residents are renting employee dorms, Harbin’s outlook on the situation is grim. “We live in fairy tale land where apparently the superintendent is queen,” Harbin told the Bee, “and she can do whatever she wants here.”
This isn’t the first time that park employees have been ousted from the Yosemite area. In May 2020, Fox 26 News reported that Aramark furloughed a group of park concessionaires and gave them just two weeks to relocate amid the pandemic. In July, the outlet reported that the company isn’t “evicting” anyone; it is graciously giving them a week to leave their company-provided homes and move into tent cabins instead.
According to 65-year-old John Franz, these tent cabins are hardly sufficient. “We have to move out of our housing, out of our assigned housing and into this place called Boy’s Town, which is not housing. It’s tent cabins that are set aside for overflow employees or something like that. Single-occupancy tent cabins with community bathrooms and community showers,” he told Fox.
At the time, the Associated Press reported that as many as 170 people could have been infected with the coronavirus in the Yosemite Valley. Subsequently, Franz didn’t feel safe using the shared bathrooms or living in the “Boy’s Town” tent cabins.
“In the case of El Portal, I feel the feds should step up and do the right thing,” Tim Sheahan, board member and past president of the National Manufactured Home Owners Association and Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League, told the Bee, “but if it takes a partnership or pressure from the state and county, those avenues should be pursued.”