Written by The Business Journal Staff
Visit Yosemite | Madera County
Education: Heald Business College
Age: 53 years young
Family: Husband David Salisbury and adult sons Aaron & Zed Salisbury.
WHAT WE DO: We are the official visitors bureau of Madera County.
How has the recovery of tourism been going in Yosemite after the fires?
Slow, but steady. We are seeing about a 10-percent increase in October and November in lodging after huge losses over the busiest part of the summer season.
What is it about Madera County that makes it the most widely used access point to the park?
Madera County is the easiest access to Yosemite from Southern California and a lot of coastal towns, making it the most traveled gateway into Yosemite. Plus, we have a lot of vacationers that stay at Bass Lake as well.
Beside the park, what are some of the big events and places your office has been marketing?
Yosemite is definitely the biggest attraction for us, but Bass Lake is also its own vacation destination and draws many visitors throughout the year with summer, of course, bringing the largest visitation.
Some of our larger attractions are the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad that is open from mid-March through November (depending on weather). It’s a one-hour narrated train ride through the Sierra National Forest – a must see if you’re in the area.Plus they have gold panning, smaller Jenny Rail Cars, a museum and gift store and their “famous” Moonlight Special dinner train evening all summer. We also have the Madera Wine Trail, which brings a lot of visitors to the area to try our family-owned boutique wineries. We have arts, entertainment, museums, and so much more to offer visitors who come to the area. Our 2019 Visitors Guide theme is MORE THAN “California’s Gateway to Yosemite.”
How does tourism and travel look going into 2019?
We are hoping to go back to “normal,” but it will depend on weather – we need rain and snow to fill the lakes and for the waterfalls in Yosemite, among other things. It also depends on the fire season. California has been so dominant in the news for these horrific fires the last few years. It’s definitely hurting tourism in some areas, not to mention the lives it’s affected for Californians.
What are some of the features/sites in Madera County that you enjoy the most?
I love Bass Lake! I’m so lucky to live so close and get to enjoy the lake often. It’s a favorite place to go in any season! I also love good wine, and we have some delicious wineries in Oakhurst, O’Neals, and Madera. My husband is more of a beer fan and his favorite is South Gate Brewing in Oakhurst. They have amazing food too! We have recently gotten hooked on the Golden Chain Theatre’s productions. Our favorites have been Oklahoma and Fiddler on the Roof. I know I promote Madera County for a living, but just answering this question makes me realize that I’m a tourist here too!There’s just so much to see and do – never a dull moment!
What are some of the ways that your efforts to market Yosemite and Madera County have been paying off in recent years?
Hands down, the Yosemite Anniversaries combined efforts between all four of the Yosemite gateways and the park itself (as well as many other park partners) have had the most impact on tourism over the last four years. It started on June 30, 2014 with the 150th Anniversary of the Yosemite Grant signed by President Lincoln during the Civil War, which protected Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Then 2015 marked the 125th Anniversary of Yosemite National Park and 2016 was the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. Yosemite had record visitation and tourism has been at an all-time high for Madera County through 2017.
What are your roots in the Central Valley?
I was born in Hawaii, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Fresno in 1983. I fell in love with Bass Lake – spent my 21st birthday at old Ducey’s! Then moved to Coarsegold/Oakhurst in 1984 and have been here ever since. I’ve spent over 30 years promoting tourism in Madera County!
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
Wow, that was a long time ago. It was a paper route, and I learned that it was tough riding a bike up and down the hills in El Cerrito (across the Bay from San Francisco) carrying all those newspapers, especially in the rain!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
We love to travel domestically and internationally. When we aren’t traveling, we are usually hanging with friends, or having a “home weekend” with just my husband and I, playing cards, games and reading.