Yosemite National Park‘s long-running effort to finish a protection plan for the Merced River just got a little longer.
The U.S. District Court in Fresno Thursday granted a delay in the controversial plan until Dec. 31. It was supposed to be completed by July 31 — a date set by a previous request for a delay. Yosemite needs time to process more than 30,000 comments received this year on the draft.
The National Park Service and the activist groups late Wednesday filed papers to push off the deadline, which adds time to an effort that already is more than a decade old. This is the third version of the plan since 2000. Previous versions were struck down by federal courts.
The current plan is a result of a lawsuit settlement between activists and the Park Service in 2009.
Park Service leaders say they are not reopening the comment period on the controversial plan, as business leaders and many others had hoped. Many had pushed hard this year to reopen the process because they opposed removing the ice rink at Curry Village and several other amenities.
The plan was attacked earlier this month in a hearing before the House of Representatives. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, led a Republican charge to leave the amenities untouched.
He termed the plan “exclusionary and elitist,” and asked, if facilities are removed from Yosemite Valley, “where does a dad go to get ice cream for a kid on a hot summer’s day?”
Activist groups, including Friends of Yosemite Valley and Mariposans for the Environment and Responsible Government, also want to negotiate the content of the draft. They and the Park Service are asking for time for that negotiation.
There were no specifics in court documents about the activists’ concerns.
A voice from the past has joined the backlash against the National Park Service’s plan to protect the Merced River in Yosemite Valley.
Tourism and business leaders in communities, such as Oakhurst, around Yosemite National Park are opposing the proposal, which would remove an ice-skating rink, a bicycle rental business and a few other amenities.
Now former Congressman Tony Coelho, who wrote an amendment to include the Merced River in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA) , is opposing the removal of the amenities, saying the law was only intended to include the Merced River outside of Yosemite National Park to the west.
Coelho, once a powerful Democrat based in Merced, wrote a letter saying Yosemite Valley should not be considered wilderness. “Yosemite Valley should be left as it is,” he wrote.
The public comment period ends April 30 on the long-debated Merced River Plan, which has been in and out of court for the last decade. Park leaders have spent the last three years rewriting the plan to comply with court orders and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
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.