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It can literally take your breath away. It did to me, the first time. We were traveling the narrow road along the wild river through the canyon and into the hilly country leading to it. There were the house-size boulders and the Arch Rock. Driving under it was like moving through an entryway into a magic garden. In fact, that’s just about what it is. A magical place. Yosemite National Park. More specifically, Yosemite Valley.
The first time I drove into the open meadows of the valley after passing though the woods, I heard a strange, loud noise and realized it was a waterfall – Bridalveil – the icy water falling from a cliff hundreds of feet above my car – its pathway a streak of white foam as it bounced and cascaded to the valley floor, where it rushed in twisting creeks toward the river.
And then I saw it. Rather, them – a panorama of granite cliffs surrounding me. El Capitan. Half Dome. North Dome. Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. The Cascades. Sentinel Dome. Glacier Point.
It was almost too much at once. I’d known intellectually it was there and looked like that, but when I actually saw it, it really did take my breath away. I gasped and tears filled my eyes. It was so incredibly, overwhelmingly beautiful. It still is.
I hope you get a chance to be there to savor the immensity, beauty, solitude and eternal quality of this park that belongs to the people of the United States. (That means the park belongs to you!) But you might not get to see it or experience it and that’s not an idle threat. It is a very real possibility, courtesy of environmental zealots and spineless politicians.
Plans have been under way over the last 10 years to evaluate the park and to change it. The idea is to come up with a plan for everything in the park. I have a draft copy of the Yosemite Valley Plan which is over 1,000 pages long, regulating everything – camping, roads, hotels, grasses, animals, streams, the river – you name it.
It boils down to the ultimate goal of turning Yosemite National Park into a sort of living museum. The idea is to remove virtually all human imprint and return it, as the enviros like to say, to its pristine, natural state. They are doing their very best to make it almost impossible for anyone to enjoy it in the manner that’s been available to visitors since the 1800’s. People have no idea what’s in store if the draft plan is carried forward as envisioned.
If those changes are made, it will be harder to get in – raise the entry fees, prohibit certain traffic and reduce available roads; impossible to drive in – can’t have those exhaust fumes; almost impossible to camp in – people can be so messy and campfires pollute; impossible to horseback ride in – horses trample the brush and manure spreads seeds not native to the area; difficult to hike or bike through – those paths deface meadows and woods; or even raft in the river – rafters disturb the fish and disturb the beaches. They actually want to remove restroom facilities! Need I go on? I think you get the drift.
It’s already started. The entry fee was jacked up to $20 per vehicle. A number of housekeeping camping units removed. Two entire river-area campgrounds totally removed. The only gas station in the valley closed. Campfires restricted. Stables and trail-rides reduced. Some roads closed to motor vehicles.
On the surface, the efforts to restore the riverbanks and the meadows are noble efforts and I don’t quibble with them. I am all in favor of protecting natural resources and it is possible to make those improvements and still not restrict the ability of visitors to see and enjoy the park.
But how do you justify the proposal to eliminate camping (which allows people with more limited budgets to enjoy nature) but keep the historic Ahwahnee Hotel (for those with bulging wallets) and enlarge Yosemite Lodge (which is nothing more than a motel)? Yosemite should be for nature – not for maid service.
One proposal would eliminate all private cars and require everyone to be hauled in on electric busses. (Good Morning! California is in the midst of a power shortage!) But tour busses will not be limited! (What about that exhaust?) They also want to tear down beautiful, historic stone bridges, pull out several roads and dams, and demolish all employee housing within the park. (Uh oh, here come the commuters!)
It’s ironic and telling that, on the one hand, there’s an all-out effort to preserve Indian ruins, relics and sites but conversely, an all-out effort to destroy the history of the white man in the valley. All the early settlement buildings are gone except for the lovely wooden church. Why weren’t they saved for posterity? Why are Indian sites more valuable historically? Think about it.
For the sake of the country, the National Park Service and Congress need to know what you think about this. Those decisions are being made now. If you want to put a stop to this absurdity, let them know – now!
The sound activists like best is silence – it gives them the cover they need to carry out their schemes. Don’t let them get away with it. Yosemite is YOUR park. Don’t let them ruin it.