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Re: Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr

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Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr
March 20, 2013 04:27PM
Yosemite National Park may ban horse, bike and raft rentals, and remove ice rink and pools

By Paul Rogers

Posted: 03/20/2013 03:34:57 PM PDT

YOSEMITE VALLEY -- With the onset of spring, visitors are returning to see the waterfalls, granite cliffs and snow-capped peaks of Yosemite National Park. But a 14-year-old lawsuit could soon force sweeping changes and eliminate popular activities in one of America's most beloved national parks.

In the name of restoring the park's natural setting, a new proposal by the National Park Service would ban bicycle and horse rentals in Yosemite Valley and remove the ice rink at Curry Village. Swimming pools at the Yosemite Lodge and Ahwahnee Hotel would be torn out. Rafting rentals on the Merced River would end. The longest stone bridge in Yosemite Valley would be demolished. Even the Yosemite Art Activity Center, where families learn water colors, would go.

The changes -- which will be discussed by park officials at a public meeting Thursday in San Francisco -- are part of a new set of principles for the park known as the Merced River Plan. The 2,500-page document, released in January, comes after years of lawsuits over what should be allowed in Yosemite Valley and the Merced River that flows through it.

In many ways, the document is a symbol of the near-impossible mission of the National Park Service: providing public recreation while preserving spectacular landscapes.


http://www.mercurynews.com/science/ci_22833996/yosemite-national-park-may-ban-horse-bike-and
avatar Re: Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr
March 22, 2013 02:23AM
Here are a couple of photos of Thursday night's meeting at Fort Mason in San Francisco:

First Half Hour was an open house with individual discussions between the public and the NPS staff:



Then a 75 minute presentation by Kathleen Morse, the director of Park Planning at Yosemite:


That was followed by at 60 minute Q&A period between the public and staff.

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Re: Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr
March 22, 2013 08:29AM
Thanks for the recap of the meeting. What kind of questions came up during the Q and A session?
Re: Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr
March 22, 2013 04:52PM
Have we learned nothing since the Raker Act? Be careful asking anyone in SF how to manage a Yosemite natural resource... smiling smiley
Re: Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr
March 22, 2013 07:22PM
O.K. so I wasn't at this meeting and am just reading about the proposals in today's Chronicle and here. (3.22.13).

I try to take a Zen-ish approach to the Valley: appreciate the beauty, ignore the concessions. The Valley pays for what I love most; that is, the higher country. Call me bourgoise, but I like having blowdowns cleared by trail crews, for example. I like bridges over impossible river crossings. I like having trails repaired from the damage caused by horse packs.
Which brings me to: horse rentals being banned in Yosemite. I can only hope that this includes horses into High Sierra camps, but I doubt this. Honestly, I have no idea what people do with horse rentals in the valley, or what these restrictions mean. If it's just horses to top of Nevada Falls and back, well, that's not my issue. I live with the horse crap on this short stretch of trail as a concession to the elderly--justified!--, the lazy, the rich, the ignorant.

Banning bike rentals? Here's where it gets complicated. As mentioned, Yosemite Valley pays for the backcountry and supplements other Parks as well. The vast majority of park visitors will never go backpacking proper. But many or most of these visitors will remember their experience in the Valley and Tuolumne and vote for park funds. Those funds will pay for trail crews, for example. As a former member of a trail crew, I'll suggest that these crews as a whole will spawn generations of wilderness loving children. Those kids and their parents will fight to protect the backcountry, and the idea of wilderness worldwide. Once you've gone feral, there's no turning back--at least, from the recollection of that beauty!
And of course there are thousands of once a year hikers, etc. who nevertheless reconnect with nature and support the Parks.

So if renting bikes in the Valley adds to the experience of tourists who will never backpack, but who will support the Park as a whole, then...

I'm just working out thoughts here; I've haven't come to any conclusions.

Obviously, I've given up on the idea of returning the Valley to a pristine ideal. It's just not going to happen. I like the notion of removing swimming pools, ice rinks, unnecessary buildings. The idea of the Valley being an amusement park with river rides should end. But the Park System as a whole needs tourists who will spend money and, hopefully, be awe struck by nature and vote to defend her. Again, here's where it gets complicated. We need park visitors; we have to restrict the impact of park visitors.

So yeah: parks need their horrible tourist dollars. Most park visitors don't want wilderness; they want amenties and a chance to say "wow!"

Circling back to where I began: if those amenities and that experience help maintain the backcountry, then maybe that's the price we pay.

And yes I realize that the idea of a "managed" wilderness is a contradiction in terms! I'm just a tourist too, though further out from the Valley.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/22/2013 07:27PM by hegel.
Re: Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr
March 22, 2013 08:03PM
Well, you are still going to step into horse crap. The horse restriction in the TRP and MRP are only for concessionaire rentals because they want to cut down on commercial activities such a horse rentals, raft rentals, bike rentals, the pools, the ice skating rink. Anyone that owns a horse can still ride in the areas in the park where it has been allowed. Your can still bring your own raft and get a permit and you can still ride your own bike. The kicker is that some of the removal of activities is not for the preservation of river values but because the lawsuit that was filed wants limits to commercial activities in the park.
Re: Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr
March 23, 2013 03:44PM
Bikes don't crap on the trails; they're not allowed on trails. They would seem to be far down on the list of issues. I understand that you're saying it's legal issues driving this plan. Hmmmm.

On further reflection, banning horse trains from the Valley to the top of Nevada Falls would greatly improve the experience for everyone . The .elderly who can't walk this trail might lose out--but how many elderly people want to go horseback riding? I mostly see young and middle aged people riding these trains. I've ridden horses (not in the Sierra); walking this trail IMO would be a better experience than riding. Seriously, you're just slowly and uncomforatably riding a walking horse in a train up and back; going downhill steeply on a horse is not that much fun. Makes a mess for everyone else. Same with the trail to Mirror Lake.

So you can still bring your own horse and ride around the Valley? I wonder how many people do that.

And just to be clear, under this plan the horse concessions in Tuolumne are banned too? What about private trains into the backcountry? sounds like if you rent from out of the park--Mammoth for example-- you can still do this.
Re: Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr
March 23, 2013 07:42PM
The ban on concessionaire horse rides in the Tuolumne is in the Tuolumne River Plan not the Merced River Plan.

The MPR has to follow the requirements of the Wind and Scenic River Act and some other acts . In addition the park has to follow the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court that came about because of the lawsuit filed by the Friends of Yosemite Valley and the Mariposans For Environmentally Responsible Growth ( formally know as the Mariposans for Environmentally Responsible Growth.)

To get a full idea of what the purpose and need for the MRP go to the planning section at www.nps.gov/yose and click on the Merced River Plan and read chapter 2. It gives details of the Acts that have to be followed and also the lawsuit.

The comment period for the Tuolumne River Plan is over but the documents are still at www.nps.gov/yose in the planning section.

I highly recommend people that are concerned or want to be in the know about what is going on in Yosemite go and read the documents. The comment period for the MRP is April 18. There is also a Mariposa Grove Plan that is in the comment phase.
avatar Re: Merced River plan, SF public meeting on Thr
March 24, 2013 03:23AM
One thing that came out of this public meeting is that it's not the Park planners desire to remove ice rink or the bike rentals (or even the Lodge's swimming pool). It's the NPS lawyers that are pushing for their removal to help deal with the infamous "Footnote 5" of the judge's decision on the related lawsuit.

It's even stated in the draft MRP that none of the above items has an adverse impact on the Merced River. It's just the NPS lawyers feel that to satisfy the judge, a number of items listed in Footnote 5 need to be removed (or a least relocated more than a 1/4 mile from the Merced River). In other words, it being driven by the NPS lawyers, not the NPS planners.

That said, the planners are thinking about ways to relocate the bike rentals to an area in Yosemite Village that would be a 1/4 mile away from the river. Also they're thinking in making the ice rink be a temporary structure that would take over part of the Curry Village parking lot in the winter. They feel that could satisfy "Footnote 5".

And in regards to the Lodge's swimming pool, it too might be saved from the axe since the park planners did acknowledge during the meeting that having a pool with lifeguards can actually be viewed as a way to minimize damage to the Merced by "dispersing activity along the Merced River corridor". In other words, it would divert people who might otherwise flock to the Merced for a dip in the water during the hot summer days. It was also brought up during the meeting that the removal of the pool could lead to an increase in drownings and other injuries along the Merced.

So the bottom line is that we'll have to wait and see what finally ends up in their final plan.

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