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Yosemite might remove cabins in area closed by falling rocks

August 9, 2011 |  2:46 pm

Yosemite National Park rock slide
Officials are taking steps to remove more than 70 historic cabins from an area of Yosemite National Park's popular Curry Village that was permanently closed after a series of rock falls in 2008.

Though no final decisions have been made on the fate of the buildings, an environmental report released Tuesday states that park officials want to remove the structures to "maximize safety for park visitors and employees and eliminate the need for administrative access to the closed area."

The buildings in question -- 72 cabins and six other structures -- are in an area that was deemed too dangerous for access after two major rock falls in October 2008 on Glacier Point, which looms above the camping spot known for its 1920s-era cabins. The first rock fall destroyed one cabin, and two days later, the second wreaked more havoc. Three people were injured and several cabins damaged by the rocks, which narrowly missed a group of young children who were on a field trip.

Most of the original 600 buildings were reopened after a temporary evacuation, but about one-third were closed permanently. The proposal addresses the remaining 78 structures, which are fenced off in a designated "rock fall hazard zone."

Still, the buildings draw curious visitors who hop the fence to get a closer look, park officials said.

"I don't know what it is about fences, but people see fences and say, 'There must be something out there worth seeing,'" said Kari Cobb, park spokeswoman. "It is a very active area [for rock slides], and anytime you have visitors in that area, it puts them at risk."

Park officials also want to maintain the natural scenery Yosemite prides itself on, Cobb said.

"We have a fence up with cabins that are just sitting back there that aren't being used," Cobb said. "If we remove all the cabins and restore it to just the natural setting, then we don't have a fence and 'no trespassing' sign."

The current environmental assessment -- open for public comment until Sept. 9 -- lists three other options for the structures that would not remove them from the area, as well as an option for officials to take no action at all. But  Cobb said even if the structures were to remain in place, they wouldn't be opened for use.

Park officials will make a decision after the end of the 30-day comment window and open up the finalized proposal for one more comment period. All in all, Cobb said, it could take between one and three years for the project to be complete.


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-- Kate Mather

Photo: In October 2008, a boulder knocked down a tree during a rock slide at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press