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Petition to Reopen Flooded Campgrounds

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avatar Petition to Reopen Flooded Campgrounds
April 23, 2007 01:30PM
The petition to reopen the Yosemite Valley Campgrounds:

Part of the Yosemite National Park Service’s argument to keep the Lower and Upper Rivers and half of Lower Pines campgrounds closed is that the campgrounds had sewer lines that were broken in some places. They were filled with sand, etc. Well, that's what the $80,000,000 they got from congress was earmarked to fix. They asked for money and they got it. They said they were going to rebuild the campgrounds with the money and they didn’t.

Everyone knew that the sewer lines were going to be replaced as a part of the GMP anyway, and this was a given. Most of the damage to the campgrounds consisted of three inches of sand and dirt that had washed over the campground roads. Little of the campground roads were damaged at all. When you think about it, prior to the late sixties, or whenever it was that they paved the roads in these campgrounds there was no pavement. It was nice to have the pavement, as it kept the dust down, but many campgrounds in other places are without pavement, and it's not a requirement to have pavement to call it a campground. A campsite is a coordinate on a map, and is not relative to man made improvements. Most if not all of the bear boxes were untouched, as they were bolted to concrete pads. Tables were rounded back up by park employees within two weeks of the flood, and instead of putting them back in the campsites; they piled them high and took photos of them, so as to dramatize the look of damage. The campgrounds could have been reopened for pennies on the dollar of what they said it would take to reopen them.

The fact is that they didn't want to open them and they should have told congress this, rather than ask for money that they knew they weren’t going to spend on the restoration of the campgrounds. It was back before the flood; in 1994 the park stated that they wanted to remove all camping north of the river. They knew they weren’t going to replace the campgrounds in 1997 after the flood when they asked congress for that money. Did they lie to congress? It sure seems like it to many of us. Perhaps they should give the money back.

In 1994 when the park said that they wanted to remove the campgrounds north of the river, of course this was opposed by the camping public at large. The old 1980 Yosemite General Management Plan (GMP) offered a more workable solution that far less people were opposed to when they outlined their redevelopment plans that would have separated campsites and removed them from sensitive areas close to the river.

After the 1997 flood, when the park manager’s said that "nature did what the public would never have allowed us to do", when they decided not to reopen the flooded campgrounds, they talked about how these sites were in sensitive flood zone areas and that it made no sense to have campgrounds in flooded areas. They failed to mention that much dialogue had already been completed with the public on this subject, and in their own GMP, which the YVP was SUPPOSED to adhere to, they had already addressed this by removing over a hundred sites in areas close to the river and making the campgrounds a beautifully separated camping experience that campers for the most park agreed with and looked forward to. Campers who participated felt that they all had a hand in the redesign and the hoped for improvement in the eventual Yosemite Camping experience, where they wouldn't have to camp very close to the campers in the next campsite, and there would be plenty of room for riparian regrowth of foliage near the river etc, and decompaction of earth.

Campers are more often than not people who love nature, which is why they camp, and were very much behind the plans offered under the GMP as outlined before the YVP, which was supposed to adhere to the GMP in the areas of the campgrounds. For those not familiar with them, I will outline them briefly for you. I think it's important to get this information out.

The park had a plan that was well designed and considered in the now obsolete 1980 GMP. The flood changed everything. It truncated all dialogue regarding these campgrounds and gave the park the ability to do what they wanted to do all along, without having to reach out for further public input. They blamed it all on the flood, and did a spectacular sales job on the public to convince them that they were doing the right thing by not reopening these campgrounds that were flooded for the first time in the last fifty years. Of course, many campers were caught between wanting to have a more natural Yosemite at any cost, and an improved camping experience which was the GMP compromise. We all want a more natural camping experience, but we also all want a more natural Yosemite. The GMP was a nice balance between both worlds, and it was a plan that had been worked out with all of us Yosemite camping enthusiasts since actually before 1980.

The Yosemite Valle Plan (YVP) will now only allow 330 drive-in sites; which is a 52% reduction of drive-in sites from the widely acclaimed GMP number of 684--a number that already had factored in removal of 116 sites closest to the Merced River/riparian areas. Of the 330 drive-in sites, 48 sites will be converted for RVs and will include hook-ups. The bottom line is, in the GMP we would have had 684 nicely separated sites instead of 330 in non refurbished/redesigned campgrounds. In the end, under the GMP, there WOULD HAVE BEEN 684 drive-in campsites spread out over all five (5) campgrounds, instead of what they have done, and will do when they remove North Pines, where there will only be 330 drive-in sites.

The GMP was hard fought and worked out, with thousands of public participants who untold hours writing letters and going to all their meetings, attempting to help work with the park managers for over fifteen years. Many of us got involved in the planning process for those many years during the GMP, and in the end, at the close of the Bruce Babbitt administration, he and his new park superintendent, Dave Mihalic who was brought in, in 1994 to drive home Bruce Babbitt's agenda, decided to throw the GMP, our baby, out with the bath water. I started with this in either 1977 or 1976 and can tell you I have all the documents and proof to back up every detail of what I'm talking about here if anyone wants more information.

There are park managers who are at the helm in Yosemite who are dead set on doing what they want to do, and will manipulate public opinion to sell their Yosemite Valley Plan regardless of its flaws to the public to ensure that their schemes come to fruition. This is the reason we started this petition, to show congress that unlike what the park would like them to think, there is a large contingent of campers out here who have been involved from day one, who are strongly opposed to the manipulative manner that the park has used to push through their agenda, under the disguise of a well thought out plan. If it were well thought out, the court wouldn’t be making them go back and redo it.

If their plan were done right, and had abided by the rules, Bruce Babbitt would not have tossed out the discussion of a Carrying Capacity from the original Merced River Plan at the onset; something that the court later ordered the park to put back in. And, the park wouldn't have forged forward with a 400+ million dollar Yosemite Valley Expansion Plan without completing the Merced River Plan first. Instead, the park completed the Merced River plan well after the Yosemite Valley Plan, which is exactly backwards from what they were supposed to do. The whole idea of the Merced River Plan was for it to dictate to the park what development could take place in and around the Merced "Wild and Scenic River", so that they then could devise their Yosemite Valley Plan around it.

Instead, they went ahead and FINISHED their Yosemite Valley Plan well BEFORE the Merced River Plan, because Bruce Babbitt was leaving office and wanted to fast track it, thinking that no one could stop him. Well, he was almost right, as it did take a federal court to actually stop him.

The YVP is a plan where literally 94% of the 400+ million dollars that they intend to spend will be spent on new buildings, structures and roads, while it had been sold to the public as some kind of a restoration plan. But in the end, if it had not been for that flood, there wouldn’t have been any restoration in the plan of note. The flood sort of saved them in a way, because it was a way for them to claim restoration that they hadn’t planned for. The only restoration in the YVP in Yosemite came squarely on the backs of campers alone.

Had they kept the “carrying capacity” in the Merced River Plan, and completed it first, before trying to develop a Yosemite Valley Plan, not only would it have been the way they were supposed to have done it, but the court wouldn’t have had to get involved.

The park complains that this is now going to take them three more years to complete, which is a very telling statement. What they’re in effect saying is that this carrying capacity issue is the very reason that pushed the YVP in front of the MRP in the first place. Bruce Babbitt and his administration were leaving office and he didn’t have enough time left in office for him to be involved in the process to get the Merced River Plan completed in prior to the Yosemite Valley Plan, and for that reason he fast tracked it.

This is not a political issue, and I'm not trying to disparage the Clinton administration here. But, what I am trying to do is point out that it was Bruce Babbitt's YVP, not the public's YVP plan, and that because he was leaving office, and it was all time critical to him, he had to get it all done before he was out of office, which is why he pushed the YVP ahead of the Merced River Plan, and why it had to go to court, and why in the end the court caught it and made them back up and do it again. The YVP was Bruce Babbitt’s plan, and the GMP was the public’s plan.

Besides following the link at the website below to the petition to reopen the campgrounds relative to the dictates of the 1980 Yosemite General Management Plan, please also sign up to receive our newsletter at:


I hope you sign it and get involved.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.


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