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Yosemite National Park future debated in Oakhurst

Friday, March 15, 2013

Recreation and restoration are in the sights of Yosemite National Park planners. They are developing a $235-million management strategy to ease park congestion. But the plan could eliminate some park activities.

A meeting was held in Oakhurst Thursday night regarding the changes. All of the nearly 70 people who showed up at the meeting are concerned over the future preservation of Yosemite National Park, but their views don't quite match up with the park planners.

As the weather warms up, visitors fill up the Yosemite Valley. But soon, park officials hope to ease what they call congestion during peak days. They're also looking to restore much of the park to its natural state.

Part of that plan would include eliminating some commercial recreation -- like bicycle and raft rentals, as well as day-use horse rides specific to the Valley.

"There's a dual mission in this plan. One is to protect and enhance those river values and maintain them over time. And two is to allow access and use and provide a quality visitor experience," said Kathleen Morse, Yosemite National Park.

The focus of the restoration is along the Merced River and the eight mile run through the Yosemite Valley.

At a meeting in Oakhurst, park officials answered questions from concerned park regulars. People like Joanne Freemire, who loves the ice rink at Curry Village. Under the plan, the ice rink may be gone. "It's hard to find a place to ice skate in California, especially beautiful out-of-door rinks like that one in Yosemite Valley with the beautiful view of Half Dome."

Yosemite officials say even if commercial bike and raft rentals are eliminated, guests can still bring their own equipment. Surveys show, those activities are used by only a small percentage of visitors.

"I think they'll be a reduction in visitation. I think people won't stay as long because they won't have these recreational opportunities," said Max Stauffer, Oakhurst.

Many adjustments have been made to the plan already based on public input. The park is looking to add 174 new campsites and increase parking by 11 percent. They say the goal is not to increase the number of visitors, but better manage the visitors who are already enjoying Yosemite.

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yosemite national park, oakhurst, mariposa county, local, rick montanez
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