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Yosemite National Park plan seeks to ease crowding and traffic

January 9, 2013 |  8:26 am
The view from Glacier Point in Yosemite in Aug. 2009.

A National Park Service plan intended to ease congestion in Yosemite Valley proposes numerous cutbacks to reduce tourist activities but stops short of placing a limit on the number of daily visitors.

The proposal is the agency's third attempt to produce a legally acceptable management plan for the Merced River and the ever-popular valley that it flows through. Environmental groups have twice sued the agency, winning court orders that compelled the park service to draw up new blueprints.

The latest effort, a lengthy draft document released Tuesday, navigates a middle course. The agency's preferred alternative would restore 203 acres along the river, change traffic circulation and parking, and eliminate an ice skating rink, commercial horseback riding, hotel swimming pools and raft and bicycle rentals.

But the plan steers clear of the politically sensitive issue of reducing the number of visitors to the valley, which on a busy summer day can be packed with nearly 20,000 people.

Kathleen Morse, chief of planning for Yosemite National Park, said the proposal tries to give the public what it wants. "The feedback they gave us was consistent with what we ended up with in the preferred alternative: We want to be able to come to Yosemite. We want to have our cars. We hate the traffic. We would like you to do something about congestion and we want more camping."

Park planners tried to figure out how best to use the limited land base of the valley, which is 1 mile wide and 7 miles long. They decided some commercial activities could go, including the pools, skating rink and other activities.

The draft will be open to 90 days of public comment, after which the park service will issue a final decision.

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-- Bettina Boxall

Photo: The view from Glacier Point in Yosemite in Aug. 2009. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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