Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Wheelchair access is part of $24 million Mariposa Grove facelift

A reader wrote to me about my Sunday story on the rehabilitation of Yosemite National Parks’ Mariposa
Grove, expressing disappointment about the lack of wheelchair access.

“Again, the Yosemite restoration program is NOT for people. For the last decades, the environmentalists have ruined
the pleasure of Yosemite for the public. Now the grove will be RUINED for those who cannot walk. We are disgusted.”

The story was mainly about nature, the removal of paved roads and generally a reduction in the human footprtint around magnificent giant sequoias.

I am sorry I did not find room to simply say that the plan provides “universal accessibility.” For some readers, I missed a key part of the story.

Park leaders will make accommodations, such as parking areas, for people who have mobility issues, according to the plan. Here’s a quote:

“Visitors with vehicles displaying accessible parking placards or NPS service vehicles would drive through the lower Grove area to the Grizzly Giant. Several pullouts would be installed to allow these visitors to stop and view individual sequoias or groups of sequoias such as the Bachelor and Three Graces.

“Accessible parking spaces would be available at the lower Grove area and Grizzly Giant for visitors with accessible
parking placards, and the existing vault toilet would be relocated to the Grizzly Giant parking area. The
shuttle originating at the South Entrance would continue to be available to visitors with limited mobility.”

In other words, the plan attempts to address the needs of people who have range of limited mobility issues,
including wheelchairs. I urge anyone who has further doubts or concerns to read the plan and contact Yosemite.

Mariposa Grove and the pileated woodpecker

At the Mariposa Grove, a tourist pointed out something I had never seen in Yosemite National Park — a pileated woodpecker.  Bee photographer Craig Kohlruss snapped a picture of it.

We were in Yosemite to research a story about the Mariposa Grove, where about 500 mature giant sequoias live. The graceful scenes were everywhere, but the pileated woodpecker stole the show.

This is a big, eye-catching bird. It looked like the size of a crow — black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest.

The bird was pounding at the base of a white fir tree, making little pieces of wood fly. A few people stopped and took photos, but nothing distracted this woodpecker. Someone told me it was hunting for carpenter ants. I couldn’t really see what it was doing.

It has been a while since I had visited the Mariposa Grove, which is near the South Entrance and Highway 41. I’ll have to get back there again soon.

Yosemite plans $15 million makeover at Mariposa Grove

Yosemite National Park has a $15 million plan to make Mariposa Grove and its 484 mature giant sequoias a healthier place for the big trees, moving asphalt and structures away from their extensive roots.

Read the draft environmental documents and comment to the National Park Service by May 7.

The plan, which will be funded by the Yosemite Conservancy, is to rip out the lower parking lot and gift shop to get them off the widespread, shallow root system of the giants.

Most parking will be moved two miles away to the South Entrance, where shuttle buses will give visitors a free lift to the trees.

The Park Service wants to kick off  the facelift in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the grove’s protection in a federal law signed by Abraham Lincoln. The anniversary will be in June 2014.

“It was landmark legislation,” said restoration ecologist Sue Beatty, who is working on the project.

The work here is reminiscent of the makeover in Giant Forest during the 1990s when Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks removed many buildings to protect the trees.

Most of the remaining 75 groves in the world are located in the southern Sierra at Sequoia-Kings or in the Sequoia National Monument. They are considered the world’s largest tree with a life span of more than 2,000 years.

The Mariposa Grove is the largest of Yosemite’s three giant sequoia groves.