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.

San Joaquin River water releases will increase

This week, San Joaquin River water started pouring out of Friant Dam a little faster than it has been. It’s part of the experimental flows in the river restoration project.

For those who don’t follow the river closely, I’ll explain a little. Water releases from Friant have been going on for decades to supply land owners immediately downstream of the dam. It’s usually just a trickle.

This week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is ramping up to 1,050 cubic feet per second — about 2,000 acre-feet of water per day. Later this week, the release will be dropped to 700 cfs through Nov. 6. Then it will dip to 350 until the end of February.

The restoration project, which began four years ago, is supposed to reconnect the dried parts of the river with the Pacific Ocean. One goals in the project is to bring back runs of salmon that died off decades ago.

The releases over the next several days mimic nature by attracting migrating chinook salmon to move upstream for spawning, a bureau spokeswoman said. Biologists and other wildlife officials are studying the river’s reaction to the reintroduction of fish and flows.

Biologists have tagged and planted salmon in the river to follow their progress.

A big concern is seepage downstream beyond the Mendota Pool on the Valley’s west side. The flows have gotten into farm fields and caused damage, growers say.

Federal officials have installed underground water monitoring systems to detect when groundwater is rising in reaction to the extra flows.

Also local land owners have been alerted to call or email federal officials if they see seepage. Bureau leaders say they are prepared to reduce the flow if problems appear.

Yosemite Conservancy to help restore damaged areas in Rim fire

The Yosemite Conservancy is raising money to restore damage from the Rim fire, which has charred more than 200,000 acres of wildland in the Stanislaus National Forest and part of Yosemite National park.

The conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and improving Yosemite, will use donations to help restore trails, facilities and natural habitat in the region.

“We anticipate that significant work will be needed to restore areas affected in the park once the heroic efforts of firefighters are completed,” said conservancy president Mike Tollefson.

Donations to the Yosemite Fire Restoration Fund can be made online at yosemiteconservancy.org/fire or by mailing a contribution to Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite Fire Restoration Fund, 101 Montgomery, Suite 1700, San Francisco, CA 94104.

To view areas of the park, visit Yosemite Conservancy’s webcams at http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/webcams.

 Most of Yosemite remains open, smoke free and accessible three entrances — Highway 41, fhe south entrance, and Highway 140, a western entrance, and the east entrance at Tioga Pass. Highway 120 remains closed from the west.

Up-to-date information about the Rim Fire is on the park’s website at: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/rimfire.htm.

Fresno girl, 8, will take walk for Hetch Hetchy restoration campaign

An 8-year-old Fresno girl and her father will take a hike this summer in Yosemite National Park to raise awareness about the campaign to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley — a glacially sculpted masterpiece covered with 117 billion gallons of water.

Young Allison and her father, Tom Cotter, have stepped into an iconic environmental fight over a vast Yosemite feature that has been used most of the last century to store water for San Francisco.

We could fill several of these blog columns with just the headlines about the fight over Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. In 1913, pioneering conservationist John Muir lost his desperate fight to save the valley. He died the following year.

For the last several years, the nonprofit advocacy group Save Hetch Hetchy has organized hikes around the valley to push the campaign and raise money.

Called Muir’s March, the summertime event this year will include several guided backpacking journeys concluding on Aug. 3 at O’Shaunessy Dam. For those who don’t want to backpack, there’s a 6-mile day hike on Aug. 3.

Allison and her father have started a web site to collect donations.