Yosemite faces developers’ large footprint

For decades, the war against development in Malibu has been fiercely fought to preserve open space and limit development. Malibu’s residents have guarded against corporate exploitation of the environment, whether it is Malibu Canyon, Las Virgenes Creek or Chumash Indian heritage. This passion for environmental conservation is sorely needed to protect and preserve an important natural treasure — Yosemite National Park.

Aside from legal efforts by the Sierra Club, Friends of Yosemite Valley and local grassroots organizations to halt construction projects, most people throughout California and across the U.S. are unaware Yosemite National Park is slated for unprecedented development. It is about to be repackaged as “YosemiteWorld,” complete with more souvenirs, restaurants, bathrooms, diesel buses, and bus-transit staging areas at favorite scenic sites throughout the park, all designed by the concessionaire, and approved by the Park Service, to capture every last vacation dollar.

Yosemite’s National Park Service is using millions of dollars of congressional funds, intended to repair flood damaged areas, to change the course of Yosemite’s future with little public awareness or input. The service has pending plans to widen the roads to accommodate larger buses, build bus transit staging and visitor facilities, and a parking structure in the valley, as well as 32 new motel buildings at the new Yosemite Lodge, and more guest lodging facilities at El Portal.

The service released the draft Merced River Plan for public comment Jan 7. While the General Management Plan calls for a reduction in crowding, traffic congestion and the overall development footprint to “reclaim priceless natural beauty and let natural processes prevail,” the Merced River Plan will create new opportunities for increased development projects.

The Park Service has given approval to the concessionaire to begin operations this summer of large, polluting, diesel buses as the main component of the public transportation system.

As this plan will determine the fate of Yosemite for generations, the most common theme at public hearings has been the request for an extension of the public comment period. However, it does not appear an extension will be granted. This plan, ordered by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, must be completed before the end of the Clinton administration.

The public comment period closes March 14. The Merced River Plan is available at www.nps.gov/yose/planning.htm. Public comments can be e-mailed to the above address, faxed to 209.372.0456, or mailed to the Superintendent, Merced River Plan/EIS, Post Office Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389. In addition, a copy of this plan is available for review at The Malibu Times, along with supporting documents used to prepare this article.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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