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Yosemite Releases Draft Merced River Plan

Jan 8, 2013

Yosemite Falls (File Photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It has taken more than a decade, but Yosemite National Park finally released today its draft plans to protect and restore the Merced River corridor for the next 20 years.

The plans, which include six different alternatives, are intended to preserve the river, and provide visitors with opportunities to enjoy the river, according to Kathleen Morse, chief of planning at Yosemite National Park.

“It’s a dual purpose plan: One to protect the resources, and two, to provide access to them,” Morse said.

The plan is mainly focused on restoring, protecting and enhancing the Merced River, as well as the park’s riverbanks and meadows.

But the proposed changes could also impact the experience of the millions of people who visit the park each year.

The preferred plan would aim to ease traffic in the park. It would make significant changes to the traffic circulation pattern, and increase day-use parking spaces in Yosemite Valley. It would also create a pedestrian underpass between Yosemite Lodge and Yosemite Falls, Morse said.

“All of these bottlenecks and transportation glitches have caused a lot of the traffic congestion and crowding we’re seeing, so by fixing those, we hope to provide a better visitor experience and alleviate some of that vehicle problem,” Morse said.

The plan would add trails – like an interpretive nature walk highlighting the river. And it would redesign the trails, boardwalks and viewing platform at the base of Bridalveil Falls.

It also increases opportunities to camp in Yosemite Valley, while preserving Yosemite Lodge, which had been slated for removal under another a plan.

But it would also eliminate a few popular visitor attractions, including the Curry Village ice rink, bike stand and raft stand.

Yosemite National Park will be accepting public comments on the plan through April 18. A final decision is expected in July.