Yosemite National Park officials announced Thursday the release of a plan detailing site improvements to restore the peaceful habitat of the park’s largest grove of giant sequoias.
The plan outlines a restoration project that will remove some infrastructure from the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, making it more natural and accessible. Officials say the changes will improve the experience for visitors and preserve the historic trees, some of which are 3,000 years old.
“The most important thing is the protection of these rare and beautiful trees,” said Scott Gediman, park spokesman. “This project is going to restore the area and provide for the long term health of the grove.”
Gediman said the project will remove a noisy tram tour that cuts through the grove, which some visitors have said disrupted the grove’s peaceful environment. The project will also move a parking lot about two miles away, near the south entrance of the park.
The park will provide free shuttle service to the grove, Gediman said, and several more trails will be built for improved access.
Removing the infrastructure from the grove will restore the area’s wetlands, Gediman said, which is critical to the health of the trees. “The big problem right now is you’ve got asphalt going over the streams,” he said. “This project will extend the life of the trees and allow new ones to grow.”
The $24 million project will be completed in multiple phases over two to three years. About $20 million will come from fundraising by the Yosemite Conservancy; the remaining amount will be federal funds.
Neal Desai, Pacific region field director for the National Parks Conservation Association, said Thursday the project will protect one of the park’s most iconic symbols, the giant sequoias, for generations to come.
“It’s the long-term view,” Desai said. “It’s looking into the future to see how the experience people have in this area is protected and enhanced.”
Desai said he personally experienced the negative effects of having a parking lot located near the grove. “It’s really disappointing when you get there and you hear cars honking and idling right next to the entrance of the grove,” he said. “What we have here is the opportunity to restore the natural quiet.”
Groundbreaking for the project is scheduled for June 30, 2014, the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Land Grant, which marked the first time the federal government set aside land for protection.
A copy of the plan can be found at www.parkplanning.nps.gov/mariposagrove.
Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or email@example.com.