A plan for Yosemite

Hal Browder / Guest CommentaryApril 17, 2013 

It has been pointed out in several opinion articles that the passage of the Yosemite Park Act provided for the transfer of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to the state of California in 1864. This set up the issue of park control. The issue was how to strike a working balance for visitor accommodations and visitor services that would not overwhelm the natural scene.

Fredrick Law Olmstead believed that visitation without standards of behavior would defeat the purposes of park preservation. Joseph Grinnell led scientists in challenging the long held belief that the park was meant for recreation. Rather, Yosemite should be seen as a classroom for the study in the natural surroundings.

I don't feel that recreational desires should be available as one desires. Recreation in Yosemite should be focused on the appreciation of the natural world and nondisruptive forms of recreation. You may say that's elitist, but I think not.

The Park Service should not be in the entertainment business, but more into educating the visitors and protecting the resource for future generations. It has been pointed out that Secretary of the Interior Mather stated that, "Whenever possible, enjoy the parks in the manner that best satisfies individual tastes."

I couldn't disagree more with that position. All I can visualize is outboard motor boats cruising the Merced River and ORV's in the meadows. There was even a plan to build an aerial tram from the Valley to Glacier Point. I was at a planning meeting one time and a participant suggested that the Wawona Tunnel be eliminated. There you have elitism.

It is good that we have the debate as to the future of Yosemite. Look back to Mission 66, which was a 10-year plan to upgrade roads, campgrounds, and accommodations by 1966. The result: more cars and parking lots. Rings of the Joni Mitchell song "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Then in 1971, the NPS planning team considered a plan to ban all automobiles. This planning confusion still continues today. Unfortunately, not every park visitor is interested in scenery and wildlife. That will not change. A wedge has been driven between preservationists and commercial interests.

A plan to satisfy both sides is probably not possible. Compromise will hopefully be attained. Unlike in years past, the NPS has made an effort in outreaching to the gateway communities to exchange ideas. This is good and we must stay engaged in the planning process. Hopefully we will get a plan that will best preserve Yosemite in its best God-given glory.

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