Yosemite Planning, Part 2: Jason Keith in San Fran

On Tuesday November 8, longtime Access Fund regional coordinator Paul Minault joined me in a meeting with several San Francisco climbers hosted by Renee DeAngelis from Planet Granite climbing gym. We discussed the many management issues being developed in Yosemite including, explored specific preferences that climbers might have on particular issues such as new camping locations and how to restore El Cap Meadow, and filled out the MRP workbooks.

On Wednesday I met with the “Yosemite Roundtable” working group that has representatives from the National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Student Conservation Association, and American Alpine Club, among others. The Access Fund has been a member of this group for a number of years and this particular meeting was held at the Presidio and hosted by Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher and his staff who provided us an update on the MRP, the TRP, and various other current issues of interest to the working group. Immediately after this meeting the NPS held another well-attended MRP workshop where Park planners walked the public through the workbook and took comments from a number of passionate longstanding Yosemite stakeholders.

Later that evening I got a ride from Nora De Cuir over to a climber meeting in Berkeley that was attended by AF Board member Beth Rodden and organized by Lyn Barazza and the folks from Touchstone Gyms. Here again we discussed our preferences for climbing and bouldering in the Valley using the MRP workbook as guide to highlight the various issues that matter to climbers.

This was a great trip that significantly informed the Access Fund’s advocacy position on several Yosemite issues of importance to climbers. Thanks to Gator, Don Neubacher, Renee, and Lyn for making it so productive.

Climbers interested in Yosemite issues should take of look at the MRP workbook and get your comments in by November 30. The Access Fund’s positions on appropriate MRP planning alternatives are as follows:

  • Yosemite planners should work to reverse lodging/camping ratio (currently 60/40) to provide more camping and less emphasis on lodging (move lodging to the park boundaries). Providing more camping in the Park, and limiting lodging in the park to rustic/primitive accommodations, is consistent with the NPS's own management policies that promote visitors having a direct relationship to Park resources. Adjusting this ratio would also be more consistent with a national park instead of the luxury resort or amusement park that Yosemite often resembles. AF’s Valley Plan comments are found here.
  • Park planners should include in the MRP the several "improvements" for Camp 4 that were contemplated in Lodge Redevelopment Plan (which was stalled by the MRP litigation). These
    improvements include showers, fencing to encourage vegetation, limited loud bus noise, foul weather cooking pavilion and communal fire, and a nearby location for Ken Yager's Yosemite climbing museum. In addition to focusing on more camping in the Park, planners should also improve the quality of the camping experience, especially at locations such as Camp 4 where climbers are forced into highly dense and low-quality campsites. Planners should recognize the historic importance of this campground and improve some of the basic amenities such as the bathrooms. See AF’s previous comments on Camp 4 planning here.
  • Yosemite planners should restore as much camping as possible to sites that have already been disturbed such as the Pine and Oak lodging units and the Rivers Campground that were destroyed in the 1997 flood. These areas in particular could be engineered with the recognition that they will again be flooded. Plan maps should indicate flood plain areas where shallow flood depths and low water velocities make the development of campsites feasible. Planners should establish diversity of camping opportunities (including walk-in, walk-to, and a "drop-off" your gear but walk-in model) and not just limit opportunities to drive-in campgrounds (where RV generators, for example, impact the experience) or the ghetto at Camp 4. The Park should bring campsite numbers at least back to pre-flood totals as contemplated in Yosemite's General Management Plan (there's currently a shortfall of 300 campsites), but any new sites should be focused on placement in the East Valley so that the largely undisturbed areas west of Camp 4 don't also suffer from campfire smoke and new infrastructure. The Access Fund has also long advocated for the addition of camping in the Park outside of Yosemite Valley.
  • The Park should ensure climbing needs are addressed in the MRP, particularly parking locations throughout Valley and the Merced Gorge segment (Cookie Cliff, Arch Rock, etc.).
  • Park planners should ensure that measures to restore or harden El Cap Meadow are not unsightly from above. The MRP should consider hybrid approach for boardwalk further west of typical climber use areas, and use fencing and other ways to focus people onto a few discrete paths into Meadow. The MRP should ensure that climbers can continue their traditional use of the Meadow.
  • Park planners should ensure that there is adequate day use parking while pursuing a range of transit strategies to reduce auto use in the Valley.
  • Non-resource based attractions and high-impact commercial amusements such as the swimming pool, skating rink, and horseback rides to Mirror Lake should be phased out.
  • The Plan should include a noise control element that addresses noise sources such as idling tour buses, motorcycles, trash collection, RV generators, the Green Dragon touring flatbeds and others.

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