Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

After hantavirus deaths, NPS should review tent cabin changes, report says

Federal investigators have recommended a National Park Service review of any design changes in tent cabins after three deaths last year during a hantavirus outbreak at Yosemite National Park.

Several hantavirus cases were diagnosed after people spent the night at Curry Village in newer tent cabins with a double-wall construction. Investigation showed infected mice nested between the walls.

The tent cabins were shut down last year after the outbreak was discovered.

There have been reports that the tent cabins were torn down and replaced with the old, single-wall version. But Yosemite officials were not immediately available to confirm the reports.

The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General investigated last summer’s outbreak and last week reported that park officials responded appropriately in accordance with policy.

At least eight of the nine tourists who fell ill stayed in the newer tent cabins, which are operated by the private concessionaire, Delaware North Parks and Resorts.

The concessionaire had added rafters and wall studs to the tent cabins. Park Service policy did not require park leaders to approve the design changes because they were considered routine maintenance.

Backlash against new Merced River Plan in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park has extended the deadline for public comment on the embattled Merced River Plan , but not for the 90 days sought by some business leaders and a federal lawmaker.

The park has extended the public comment period from April 18 to April 30 so more people can have their say. Park leaders say they already have 25,000 comments.

In the last several weeks, there has been a backlash over the environmental protections in the plan, which is the third proposal that the park has written in the last dozen years or so.

The previous renditions failed to pass muster in federal court, partly because they didn’t specify a limit on visitors to the river in the heart of Yosemite Valley.

The new proposal — three years in the making and thousands of pages long — limits visitors to 19,900 on busy days and specifies removal of  some facilities, such as the Curry Village ice skating rink.

Yosemite leaders released the plan for public comment in January, adding 40 days to the usual 60-day comment period. Now they’ve added another 12 days.

Some business and tourism leaders outside the park had complained about the plan limiting recreation. They asked for 90 more days to comment.

In the last week, they got support from Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove. McClatchy reporter Michael Doyle in Washington, D.C., posted a twitter item last week about it, linking to McClintock’s letter to Yosemite about it. He said he is troubled by the proposed closure of  “bike rental facilities, snack stands, swimming pools, tennis courts, retail stores and horse stables.”

In joining the campaign to extend the comment period, McClintock says:

“It defies logic that NPS is proposing to close these facilities not because they degrade the Merced River, but instead because in NPS’s eyes, these longstanding facilities do not benefit the River.  What about the benefits that the American public will lose under NPS’s proposal?”

Yosemite Lodge probably won’t be torn down, readers say

Tearing down the venerable Yosemite Lodge is not likely to happen in the National Park Service’s actions to protect the Merced River.

That’s what callers and emailers are saying today after I mentioned the possibility in my column on the Merced River Plan, which is supposed to be completed some time next year.

The removal of the lodge is just part of one preliminary concept from the National Park Service. Nobody is serious about it, some said.

A few readers added that they doubted that the Curry Village Ice Rink would be closed — another concept in the preliminary options that I mentioned.

Apologies to anyone who might have read this as a done deal. I would only point out that these ideas really are among the proposals, and I found it interesting.

I wrote the item only to raise awareness, and I didn’t couch it quite right. Next time, I’ll tweet it.