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Re: Yosemite National Park Announces the Release of the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement

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Comprehensive Management Plan will Provide Access and Protect Tuolumne River Resources

Yosemite National Park announces the release of the Final Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The plan is the result of using the best available science, resource stewardship, and public input to create a robust vision for the Tuolumne River Corridor for the next 15-20 years. The Tuolumne River flows through the northern portion of Yosemite National Park and is one of the two federally designated Wild and Scenic rivers within Yosemite.

“The final plan is a major achievement to ensure the long-term health of Yosemite’s high country and provides a road map to preserve the area’s fragile resources and accommodate quality visitor experiences,” stated Don Neubacher, Yosemite Superintendent.

The final preferred alternative (Alternative 4: Improving the Traditional Tuolumne Experience) identifies a set of management actions that will work together to protect river values while accommodating existing amounts of day and overnight use and providing improved opportunities for day visitors at Tuolumne Meadows. This selected alternative responds to a range of public concerns by balancing desires to retain a traditional Tuolumne experience with desires to reduce development and make visitor use more sustainable. It also addresses the need to provide a meaningful introduction to the Tuolumne River for the growing number of short-term visitors.

The major focus of the plan is to restore the health of Tuolumne Meadows. Under the plan, the National Park Service (NPS) will implement a series of restoration actions to improve the meadow and riparian ecosystems along the river. These restoration projects will include restoring natural water flows into the meadows, replanting native vegetation, and removing informal social trails that are damaging resources.

“The restoration of the Tuolumne Meadows area and other critical resource protection actions are major cornerstones to the Tuolumne River Plan. Public input over the course of the planning process has been invaluable in shaping this key document that creates the future of Tuolumne Meadows. Throughout the process, the public has demonstrated their passionate connection to this phenomenal area,” stated Mike Yochim, Project Manager for the Tuolumne River Plan.

An equally important part of the plan is to improve the visitor’s experience in Tuolumne Meadows. Future visitors to Tuolumne Meadows will experience reduced congestion on trails and roadways, enjoy views of the meadows unobstructed by parked cars, camp at an improved campground, and see more clearly delineated parking areas and trailheads. Opportunities for day visitors to connect with the river will be improved by providing a new visitor contact station, picnic area, and trail connection to the river and to Parsons Memorial Lodge. Existing opportunities for traditional overnight use will be retained.

Public involvement was the cornerstone of the Tuolumne River planning process. Since the public involvement process began in 2005, the park has conducted over 120 public meetings. Many of the changes between the draft and final plan were the direct result of concerns raised during public meetings, agency and tribal consultation, and in public comments.

Specific Highlights of the Tuolumne River Plan include:

Protecting the Tuolumne River’s Health and Other Resources:
  • Restoring 171 acres of meadow and riparian habitat and 2 acres of upland habitat
  • Directing river access to resilient areas and restoring native riparian vegetation
  • Removing or mitigating the effects of trails and roads through meadows by re-routing trails, repairing culverts to improve hydrologic connectivity, and fencing restoration areas
  • Removing roadside parking and replacing it with designated parking lots in more durable upland areas nearby
  • Consolidating NPS and concessioner stables to minimize the development footprint
  • Upgrading the wastewater treatment plant to tertiary treatment
  • Implementing water conservation measures in Tuolumne Meadows, including upgrading water distribution lines and fixtures to be more efficient, installing water meters, and limiting water withdrawals from the river to 10% of low flows
  • Relocating all development from within 100 feet of the river, including 21 campsites at the Tuolumne Meadows Campground
  • Reducing the impacts of the Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp by reducing packstock resupply trips, limiting water consumption and associated wastewater production, and replacing flush toilets with composting toilets
  • Reducing pack stock use and associated impacts on trails in the river corridor by discontinuing commercial day rides
  • Designating stock campsites in Lyell Canyon and limiting stock access to times when meadows are “range-ready” based on snowfall and rain patterns
Preserving and Enhancing Recreational Opportunities
  • The Tuolumne Meadows Campground will be reconfigured while remaining at its current capacity of 329 sites and 7 group sites. Primary improvements will include upgrading and adding restrooms, repairing the campground roads, delineating camping spots to reduce resource damage, relocating the entrance road and kiosk out of the floodplain, and relocating campsites away from the river
  • The Tuolumne Lodge will remain at its current capacity with some facilities relocated away from the river and a new shower house provided for guests and members of the public
  • A new visitor contact station and trailhead parking lot will be built in a central location on the south side of Tioga Road to replace the existing visitor center in Tuolumne Meadows. The new facility will offer easy access to the Parsons Memorial Lodge trail across the meadows. A new trail will be provided along Tioga Road to connect the visitor contact station with the campground, store and grill
  • The existing visitor center will be converted to administrative uses and trailhead parking for Cathedral Lakes, with a connecting trail constructed
  • The Glen Aulin High Sierra Camp will continue its operation at a slightly reduced capacity
  • Private whitewater boating will be allowed on a trial basis through the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, from Pothole Dome to Pate Valley, within the current wilderness permit quota system
  • Picnic areas will be improved and expanded at Lembert Dome and at the store and grill
Managing Visitor Use to Ensure High Quality Visitor Experience
  • Visitation levels will be limited to those seen over the past several years with a maximum of 4,727 visitors to the Tuolumne River corridor. Day-use capacity will be managed by controlling parking supply and public transit use and through ongoing monitoring. Overnight-use capacity will be managed through wilderness permits, reservation systems for lodging and camping, and associated parking supply
  • To improve scenic vistas, reduce congestion, and address safety hazards, roadside parking along Tioga Road will be removed. Parking will instead be directed to designated parking lots in less visible and less sensitive upland areas nearby with a limited number of scenic viewing pullouts retained. The total amount of parking will increase slightly
  • Commercial day rides will be discontinued from Tuolumne Meadows, significantly reducing the conflicts between hikers and stock users on trails
  • A draft EIS with four management alternatives was released for public comment from January 8, 2013 through March 18, 2013, and the park received over 1,200 comments.
The Tuolumne River was designated a Wild and Scenic River by the U. S. Congress in 1984 to preserve its free flowing condition, water quality, and outstandingly remarkable values. Under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Yosemite National Park is required to develop a management plan to protect and enhance the 54 miles of the Tuolumne River that are within the park boundaries.

For a copy of the complete three-volume Plan and EIS (approximately 1,300 pages), please visit the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/trp.htm or http://parkplanning.nps.gov/trp_feis.

After a 30-day no-action period, the plan will be finalized and a Record of Decision will be prepared and signed.
I don't see how adding another building in the form of a new visitor's center is an improvement.

And allowing whitewater trips on the Tuolumne River! Seems like asking for trouble.
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roadside parking along Tioga Road will be removed

That's not good.
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eeek

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roadside parking along Tioga Road will be removed

That's not good.


Actually, that's very good for the ecology of the meadow.

From the TRP EIS:
“Vehicle congestion and crowding have begun to change the quality of the visitor experience. Unchecked, this increase in visitation may pose a threat to river values. Because parking demand during peak visitation times exceeds the capacity of the designated parking areas, about a third of all visitors now park in informal, undesignated locations along road shoulders or around the edges of designated parking areas. Of the estimated 870 vehicles parked in the Tuolumne Meadows area during peak use periods in 2011, only 533 parked in designated spaces.

Informal parking not only affects resources at the parking location, but also leads to the creation of informal trails across the meadows. Visitor use is essentially unmanaged at Tuolumne Meadows. Visitors park wherever they can, often along the shoulders of Tioga Road and other access roads, and from their cars tend to walk directly out into the meadows and along the river banks. People play games, such as soccer, in the meadows, and picnickers spread blankets over meadow vegetation. Recent research has shown that the meadow vegetation, soils, and soil organisms are highly susceptible to impacts from foot traffic and that areas of concentrated visitor use are experiencing disturbance which should be monitored and reduced.”



(But don't worry, they're going increase to the size of the visitor parking lots at Tuolumne Meadows to make up for (most but not all of) the loss of the roadside parking. In total, about a 7% reduction in parking spots, about 50 less parking spots than there currently are now.)

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I find it hard to believe they are going to provide sufficient additional parking to accommodate all the roadside parking. Of particular concern is parking for the Cathedral/JMT trail, especially on weekends. Parking for hikers in/out of TM is already pushing the limits. There's a limit to how lucky you can get using the road to the stables or the Dog Lake parking lot, depending on the day or time of day.
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tomdisco
Of particular concern is parking for the Cathedral/JMT trail, especially on weekends.

They'll be eliminating the parking at the trailhead and moving it to where the current visitor center is.
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eeek
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tomdisco
Of particular concern is parking for the Cathedral/JMT trail, especially on weekends.

They'll be eliminating the parking at the trailhead and moving it to where the current visitor center is.

I understand that. I just don't believe they will do it in a fashion that will be adequate. New parking area design tends to be dictated by money and/or lay of the land. Will either be adequate? I just don't have any faith in planners. If what gets built is not sufficient it leads to traffic constantly milling about looking for spots. This is not only inconvenient, it's damaging to the environment.
People (or more accurately, vehicles) won't be milling around Tuolumne Meadows along Tioga Road looking for a parking spot, though I wonder how the Park Service is going prevent people from illegally parking of the side off Tioga Road. I hope they do NOT post unsightly NO PARKING ANYTIME signs along the entire stretch of the road. Maybe, they' just create a small concrete or asphalt curb at the edge of the road and paint it red (a far less unsightly solution compared to NO PARKING signs).

With the additional parking spaces being added along with improvements to the Tioga Road Shuttle service, it should be easy enough to park at one of main lots and take a shuttle to the trailhead. Also for backpacking, most sane backpackers tend to head out on the trail early in the day so I'm sure for most of those backpacking, parking isn't going to be a major issue. The only ones I foresee having any sort of trouble finding parking might be those looking to start a day hike in the middle of an afternoon on a weekend day.

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plawrence
Also for backpacking, most sane backpackers tend to head out on the trail early in the day so I'm sure for most of those backpacking, parking isn't going to be a major issue.

In general starting early does address crowded parking issues, but I'm not sure anything's going to solve the problem at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead, either for hikers or for motorists driving by.

Still, here's hoping for the best.
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plawrence
Actually, that's very good for the ecology of the meadow.

It's not for just the meadow area.
The nine zillion cars parked along the road at Cath Lakes TH is one big eyesore.
Getting rid of that is a really good thing to do imo.

Also getting rid of the horses there. BRAVO!

I still haven't a clue why the need to allow whitewater rafting on upper reaches of
The Merced and The Tuolumne down to Pate.



Chick-on is looking at you!
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chick-on
Also getting rid of the horses there. BRAVO!

I agree with everything you said of course, however, I'm a bit surprised by your above statement.
I thought chickens and horses were farm yard friends?! What are your feelings towards the cows and pigs? grinning smiley
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PineCone
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chick-on
Also getting rid of the horses there. BRAVO!

I agree with everything you said of course, however, I'm a bit surprised by your above statement.
I thought chickens and horses were farm yard friends?! What are your feelings towards the cows and pigs? grinning smiley

niegh

On Z Old MacDonalds farm all I keep hearing from those tupid horses iz how
I'm gonna end up a Chick-on McNugget. I keeps telling them this isn't McDonalds.
Me purty shure they not even horses. Might be donkey or mule. You well awares
that donkey's about 4 hay bales short of a full barn, right? And have you smelled what
comes out of them. Peeee Yew! I know my dookie don't smell the greatest
but... dang! Now pigs... those are my buds. Anybody that can go a long time
and roll around in the outdoors without need a shower... he my gooood friend.
Cows. Really? Did u need to ask? You know I grews up in Wisconsin, right?

Now back to your regularly scheduled program...
Chick-on is looking at you!



Chick-on is looking at you!
(a song from the musical 'Oklahoma')

Oh, the chick-on and the horsie should be friends,
Oh, the chick-on and the horsie should be friends,
One of them likes to hike all day,
The other one likes to just eat hay,
But that's no reason why they can't be friends.


Farmyard critters should stick together,
Farmyard critters should all be pals,
Chick-on dodge them horses’ ‘bundles’,
Whilst he’s a-hiking up them trails!

(OK, so Rodgers and Hammerstein I'm not...)
Which brings us to:



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chick-on

I still haven't a clue why the need to allow whitewater rafting on upper reaches of
The Merced and The Tuolumne down to Pate.


Because of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.

As stated, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”

The courts have ruled that "and enjoyment" means that access and use for recreational purposes of a designated wild river cannot be arbitrarily restricted. Any restrictions need to be justified in a stated finding. The use of whitewater rafting on a wild river (in terms of the act) in considered something that enhances the river values and hence should be permitted as long as it does not damage other river values.

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ee-i-ee-i-k-n-o-w

I don't agree with the assessment... sometime things are better as they are.
This is my opinion. And I doubt you or anyone can make me change my mind on this one.
It's in the same realm as mtn. biking... and bring scruffy onto trail in the park...
There are plenty of other places that you can do those activities... they can be easily
found...

and ... a...
cluck cluck here...
Chick-on is looking at you!



Chick-on is looking at you!
I'm keeping an open mind in regards to this.

I'm not strongly in favor or against it, but just taking a wait and see approach.

But I am encouraged to see that the NPS planners understand that making access to the our wilderness areas more restrictive isn't their only job in regards to managing the wilderness entrusted to them. That they are actively trying to balance the need for protection and preservation with the NPS dual mission to make these lands accessible to the public for the public's enjoyment of land is very positive in the long run.

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