PD Editorial: Saving space of visitors at Yosemite

  • Visitors return from a ride in Yosemite Valley at Yosemite National Park, Calif., July 22, 2013. The National Park Service has a proposal for the park that would, among other things, restore more than 200 acres of meadows, reduce traffic congestion and move historic stables out of the Merced River area. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

Yosemite National Park is not only the primary outdoor destination of Californians and visitors to the Golden State, it is the crown jewel of the National Park System.

So why is it that some seem so determined to dismantle parts of it — at least those parts that allow people to enjoy the park as they have for generations?

We've been supportive of many of the changes that have been made at Yosemite in recent years. There are good reasons why the park has needed to restrict car travel and encourage visitors to use shuttle buses. The result in many places is a quieter, more inviting experience for hikers and bike riders alike.

And although we lamented the loss of the affordable options for overnight stays, we also understand why some camping areas and cabins weren't rebuilt or reopened following the disastrous floods on the Merced River in 1996-97.

But now, driven by lawsuits from environmental groups that seem determined to restore Yosemite to pre-human days, the National Park Service is proposing to remove some of the valley's long-standing visitor attractions.

In its Merced River Plan, the park service spells out significant steps to be taken to preserve the stream as it flows through Yosemite, particularly the 7-mile stretch through Yosemite Valley, the most heavily visited part of the park.

The $235 million plan calls for restoring green areas, reducing traffic in some areas, cutting down on congestion and building up trails in some areas. There are even plans to add campsites.

But the plan also calls for changes that seem to have marginal connections, if at all, to restoring the health of the river.

For example, it seeks to end bike rentals as well as horseback riding. Rentals of those family-sized rafts for three-hour floats down the Merced River also would come to an end. Ice skating at Curry Village during the winter would stop. And the swimming pools at Yosemite Lodge and the Ahwahnee Hotel would be taken out as well. The plan also calls for removal of one of eight Yosemite Valley bridges, built more than 80 years ago, that span the Merced River.

At best, these changes seem unnecessary. At worst they're mean-spirited.

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