A $40 million project to complete renovations to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park won’t be completed until this fall, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.
The grove, which welcomes an estimated 1-2 million people a year, houses some 500 mature giant sequoias and is one of the park’s most popular attractions.
Gediman said the project, which began in late June of 2014 and was supposed to finish this summer, has been delayed due to a winter filled with heavy precipitation.
“What happened, as we all know, is we’ve had significant rain and snow which is of course wonderful, but it’s hampered construction efforts,” Gediman said.
Gediman said work still needs to be done on repaving roads in the grove, renovating trails, getting new restrooms hooked up to the park’s plumbing system, and planting new trees or other vegetation.
When it’s finished, Gediman said guests will enjoy more natural sights, as an old parking lot and gift shop have been removed.
“In the past they were in a parking lot with a noisy tram and gift shop, but now it will be a much more natural, contemplative experience,” Gediman said. “It will be much more quiet. The idea is to get it back to the days of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt, where it was more natural, and beautiful.”
The old parking lot was impacting the roots of the trees as well, Gediman said, which necessitated its removal. Instead, a smaller lot with less than 20 spaces will remain, and most people will be transported to the grove via a shuttle at the park’s southern entrance north of Fish Camp.
“This will help ensure the health of the trees which weren’t getting a lot of the drainage from rain and snow,” Gediman said. “By restoring that natural hydrology, the grove will be restored to more natural conditions and we hope it will generate new groves to diversify the trees in the area.”
The project’s cost was covered by a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and the Yosemite Conservancy, Gediman said, with both putting in about $20 million.
2016 was a record year for attendance at Yosemite, as more than 4.9 million people visited the park. That was an increase of about a million more than the previous record.