Pam Pederson has painted close to 300 Yosemite National Park scenes over the past 15 years and over that time has fallen in love with the historic stone bridges that can be found throughout Yosemite Valley and beyond.
"A visit to Yosemite is a wondrous experience made possible, in part, by the vintage bridges that traverse the Merced River and its tributaries," Pederson said. "These bridges, each with its unique design and individual history, are often overlooked because of Yosemite's grandeur."
Pederson hopes her recently released book, "Old World Bridges," honoring about 25 bridges on the valley floor and two in Wawona, will encourage park visitors to give more than just a casual glances at the bridges.
"The old-world charm of the bridges is the human touch that gracefully connects with Yosemite's natural surroundings," Pederson said.
The release of Pederson's book just happened to coincide with The National Trust for Historic Preservation's naming three bridges in Yosemite to its 2012 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The three bridges on the list are Ahwahnee, Sugar Pine and Stoneman Bridge, the first two being walking bridges and the later a bridge for vehicles. In a June press release, the preservation group said the three bridges are being threatened with removal as part of the Merced River Plan currently being considered.
For more than 15 years, the park has been trying to write the Merced River Plan to balance public access and environmental protections that came with the 1987 federal wild and scenic designation.
Four of the five preliminary river plan alternatives released include the removal of the bridges, along with options to limit park visitors on a daily basis, reduce lodging and camping areas and eliminating the Wawona Golf Course.
"The national significance of Yosemite Valley and its rustic-style bridges has been well documented by the National Park Service," said Stephanie Meeks, president of preservation group. "As one of the Park Service's crown jewels, Yosemite should be a leader in park management that extends to both cultural and natural resources. We feel it is possible to protect and enhance the Merced River while also preserving the historic bridges that are such an iconic element of the valley's landscape."
"I recently became aware through media coverage that there is a plan that may remove some of the bridges in Yosemite Valley because, supposedly, the bridges alter the natural flow of the Merced River," Pederson said. "If the bridges hinder the natural flow of the Merced River, then leave the bridges alone and let the river take them out."
"I can't understand why they would remove historic landmarks, that are not only charming, but useful to visitors to the park," Pederson said. "These bridges provide visitors with access to beautiful areas of the park. If they are removed, the park will lose three historical landmarks."
Pederson said her original idea of doing a book highlighting the bridges of Yosemite was to show her artwork and express her love for Yosemite.
"I've spent the last two years working on the book having no idea how significant it would now with the recent announcement of the possible removal of the three bridges," Pederson said. "Now I hope the book can help make people aware of the possibility that we might lose these bridges. If the book can play a role in the preservation of these bridges, I would be more than delighted."
In addition to 47 watercolor painting and 20 ink sketches of Yosemite bridges, the book also contains a short history of all the bridges and a valley map indicating the location of 21 of the bridges. Also included are 12 of the original architectural bridge designs from the 1920s to present courtesy of the Library of Congress along with background information on each bridge.
Pederson, born and raised in Fresno, has taught watercolor classes in Yosemite for 15 years for the Yosemite Art and Education Center sponsored by the Yosemite Conservancy. She married her husband Tom in Yosemite Valley.
"People come from all over the world to see Yosemite and are happy to take advantage of the art classes offered in the park," said Pederson, who is a self-taught painter. "I enjoy seeing people in the classes gain confidence in their ability to capture the Yosemite experience in their artwork."
The book is available at the Yosemite Sierra Visitor's Bureau and at Willow Bridge Books, both on Highway 41.
Pederson is planning a presentation and book signing in early fall at Oakhurst's Willow Bridge Books Store.