The National Park Service’s plan for the future of Yosemite could mean no more bike or horse rentals, rafting, swimming or ice skating at the park. According to park service officials, reducing the human footprint is critical to preserving Yosemite for future generations. But some park regulars are opposing the plan, saying that the recreational facilities are historic and central to the park’s mission. Meanwhile, some environmentalists are saying the restoration plan does not go far enough. We’ll dig into that debate and discuss what the future holds for this California treasure.

Tom McClintock, representative of the 4th District of the U.S. Congress
Paul Rogers, environment reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and managing editor of KQED's science and environment unit
Greg Adair, director of Friends of Yosemite Valley
Wendy Brown-Barry, founder and chairman of Yosemite for Everyone, a group that opposes the plan to remove commercial facilities from Yosemite
Ron Sundergill, senior director of the pacific region at the National Parks Conservation Association, which supports the Merced River plan for Yosemite

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    We live north of Yosemite near Angels Camp and I personally prefer bikes over cars. Heck I would even like to see the park closed for an entire year, every five years or so just so the place can recoup and rest from all humans.

    It’s the garbage folks leave behind when backpacking that makes me mad. Pristine places look like mini dumps in some areas, with disposable diapers stuck between rocks and even human waste near pathways, food not buried. We brought out a garbage bag full from up off the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) east of Sonora.

  • Roy-in-Boise

    This would be a bad precedent for all of the other National Parks and Monuments. Certainly we do not want to “love Yosemite to death,” in turn we should not be like “over-protective parents” either.
    No doubt, managing motor traffic is essential. Yet, All of the activities in question attract people to the park. If we reduce the human footprint far enough, we reduce human visitation which in turn will leads to a further disconnect from the land. We must be careful what we wish for. History has shown many times over that a disconnected public is also an unwilling taxpaying public. Yosemite is a public not private paradise.

  • Jon Gold

    Having lived and worked in the valley, I believe everything works just fine there. Most families with RV’s and kids camp there, most tourists end up there. It is the epicenter of the Park. Yes, there’s too many cars, people, trash, etc. However, a short walk or hike away and you find the ‘true’ Yosemite experience – pristine wilderness in all it’s glory…don’t tell anyone. Of course the climbers know this although they can also be careless with there stuff. My point is that the Park is the size of Rhode Island and 99% of visitors go directly to the Valley floor to see Yosemite’s ‘greatest hits’ and maybe that’s OK. I do love lap swimming in the lodge pool with the towering walls above…and bicycling is a breeze after SF’s hills!

  • Chris OConnell

    I’ve never been there but I hiked on the outskirts. I stay away partly because of the stories of congestion and traffic and pollution on the main drag. May not be totally true but that is the image and that is the last thing I could tolerate if I go to the “wilderness.”

    • mountain_webbie

      You should go, it is a unique experience looking up El Capitan from the valley floor. Ahwanee Lodge is cool too. It is a visitor center, but I think it is better to have a visitor central with tourist stuff, and thus limit the impact on the high country, lakes, meadows. Going to the valley in winter is pretty amazing with fewer tourists.

  • Chris OConnell

    I suppose McClintock’s idea of the park is one filled with ATV’s and snowmobiles. If it doesn’t burn gas and if it ain’t loud, it’s a hippy liberal conspiracy.

  • SteveM

    More bicycles, electric vehicles, shuttles, fewer internal combustion engines, RV’s. Yosemite is a huge park with many areas which are easy to enjoy away from crowds, so don’t take the fun away, and don’t destroy facilities which are already in place.

  • John

    Would they consider bringing back the native americans who were living in the park that were removed when they decided to take over the land and keep it “wild”? That would make it even more authentic.

  • Sean

    This park gets over 3 million vistors a year and the majority of them visiting a valley about a mile wide and 4 miles long. If you want people out of their cars then offer them something other than a car to see the park. The shuttles are a great alternative but bicycles have zero emissions so why remove them?
    The removal of the Sugar Pine bridge is prime example of why this plan is flawed. The road that goes over the bridge heads to Mirror lake after it crosses the river at the ahwahnee bridge less than an 1/8th of a mile to the west. People would have to either cross the river or cut through the meadow area behinfd the Ahwahnee Hotel to get back on that road/trail. How is that helping the park?

  • James Taggart

    I have been going to the Yosemite backcountry since the late 70’s and have a deep love of the place. Not withstanding that, I avoid the Valley for the most part but have been there to take rock climbing classes, with visiting family, etc. It is what it is, as they say. What galls me about the current discussion is the polarization of the positions; if commercial interest had their way it would look like another 6-Flags and if the environmental extremists had their way, no one would be allowed in. Does anyone really expect to accomplish anything other than sturm und drang when this is the case? Look east for a pitiful example – congress can’t get anything accomplished despite the overflowing righteousness. A reasonable plan can be developed and it should probably start by modifying the classification of the section of the Merced that flows through the park so that you aren’t forced to do stupid, brainless things like eliminating bike rentals. Sheesh…

  • Brian Ouzounian

    Can you post my organization? I called in today near the end of the session to speak about the lack of affordable family friendly auto based drive in camping in Yosemite Valley. http://www.yosemitevalleycampers.org
    We have an e-petition on the site to encourage the repair of the flood damaged campgrounds .
    Unfortunately, my call was dropped at 10 minutes before 11AM
    Brian Ouzounian
    Yosemite Valley Campers Coalition

  • Brian Ouzounian

    The flood damage campsites should be replaced exactly as they were to the pre-flood locations. Campers do not denegrate the riverbanks. This is proven in the park science Baseline Condition Report…the river does it wherever it wants to go. There is a big flood or spring runoff each year. If there is big flooding, go bring the picnic tables back and put them in place. Push the fire pits back. Minimal costs, minimal impact. No huge investment. Visitors get their week of playtime in Yosemite.

    The NPS plays games with the number of sites and now the kind of sites. This plan would have campers come in on a bus and haul their gear to the walk-in sites or the NPS will build massive parking lots (blight) like the one at Camp 4 so campers can park and hike their gear to their spots. Ya right, like this works with young children, the elderly and the disabled. Affordable Family Friendly Auto Based Drive-In Camping is non discriminatory. The public screams for it. Read the petition on our website and the associated comments. Look at where the signers are from…..all over the world. http://www.yosemitevalleycampers.org
    By the way, we gathered 500 hand signatures also. All of them have been turned over the the NPS at each planning session and to congress via our Congressmen and Senator Feinstein. Senator, we need your help…..where are you????

  • Angela Caldera

    CAMPSITES NOT HOTELS! The NPS is misleading the public that the plan would scale back human activity. the massive new development is social engineering and it will define who is allowed access to this national park. In the preferred alternative the following is planned:
    Boys town is demolished and 25 duplex buildings, two 4-plex buildings and 5 two story 8-plex buildings are planned, and all have private baths. Similar new development and ground disturbance is also planned for the Yosemite Village and Lodge areas. The flooded campgrounds have not been repaired because campers don’t bring a lot to the bottom line profit of the concessionaire. The proposed changes will add to the cost of a visit, or just eliminate access to many. Repair the flooded campgrounds in the name of equitable access and restore access to affordable auto based drive in camping

  • Kevin Barry

    The loss of thousands of parking spaces has created the perception of overcrowding and congestion. Before the flood they had already eliminated a lot of parking and had started to remove the turn out areas that gave folks a place to go. Now they drive around and around looking for a place to park creating a problem that needs to be fixed.

  • Kevin Barry

    One thing that has not been addressed is the biotechnical re-engineering they want to do to make the river wild. Their goal in this is to enhance stream migration which will cause excessive erosion and take out roads, campsites and infrastructure. If you look deep into the plan you will see that in the end the river will be unsafe for rafting from the “Big Wood” they want to put in the river channel to enhance the migration. They will eliminate access and picnic ares near the river. There is so much more to this than the litigants and planners have presented. Smoke and mirrors to the detriment of the valley.

  • Brian Ouzounian

    Just to inform all, CNG driven buses cannot be used to transport the affluent (mostly foreign) into the Park because their weight distribution prohibits travel. Luggage that normally is loaded below the passengers must be loaded on top of the bus because the undercarriage is taken up by the CNG storage and motor assembly. This would make the vehicles too top heavy to travel the winding roads. Also, a filling station in the Valley would have to be built and that is a no-go idea. They got rid of the gas station at Camp 4 even after the 1980 GMP said it was to be improved so I think the p/c police nixed that idea. So, we are stuck with highly polluting diesel buses; even though we have campfire restrictions for particulate matter; what hypocrisy! Also of note, all the roads in the Park are not designed for bus travel, rather, auto travel…..and autos are regulated.

  • Brian Ouzounian

    We need to see that this all about money. The big money in an ideal world would like to see 100% occupancy at the concessions, 365 days a year. If the demand keeps going up and the supply keeps shrinking and you can raise rates up and up and up, that is the perfect business solution or situation. Reducing campsites states that if you want to visit the park, you need to stay in the concessions making an overnight pay-to-play in fixed roof lodging more of an option than roughing it camping. The concessionaire has a business plan to obtain all the concessions in all the national parks. Are we getting the air cleared yet folks!
    Praise to Tom McClintock who is the white night. He may seem stuck on a few things but he gets it about the campsites and so do the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. If it were not for them, massive campgrounds would be meadows. The previous plans were even more divisive and a bigger boondoggle. This is fact and even the courts agreed. The NPS cannot be trusted. The good ole days of having faith in rangers is gone. I’ve been present at their presentations for 33 years and they are masters at deception. They lure us into public comment, say we’re partners, then betray their goodwill. I am sure it comes from the top. They use to be just downright rude and threatening. Now they put on a cute smile and have gracious gestures, all the while going their own way. If I had not been there I would have denied that it was so. When I asked a senior park official at the Alternative Planning Workshop in the Park where the 17 million dollars went for the 1997 flood recovery repairs of the campgrounds, I was told that it was all gone. I got an Inspector General to investigate it and the results were hushed up.

  • Waz

    A big piece missing from this discussion is the opportunity to take pressure off Yosemite Valley through the restoration of its twin, Hetch Hetchy Valley.

    It seems silly to be debating whether an ice skating rink or rafting concession is harmful to the Valley, while a huge industrial hydroelectric project benefiting only a few inundates another magnificent valley in Yosemite National Park.

    • egoldin

      That’s because that’s not going to happen. Sorry.

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