Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

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?”