If the National Park Service has its way, Yosemite might get a whole lot wilder. In a new plan scheduled to be formally presented in a meeting on Thursday, the agency proposes ripping out tourist attractions that it says detract from Yosemite's wilderness character, including the Curry Village ice rink, pools at the Yosemite Lodge and Ahwahnee Hotel, and the longest stone bridge in Yosemite Valley. Under the terms of the Merced River Plan, the park would also eliminate bike, horse, and raft rentals.
While some applaud the new guidelines, many groups are arguing that the proposal goes too far. "You have no idea how many people have told me, 'The reason I support this park is because when I was a little kid my parents took me camping, or I went for a horseback ride or we biked around the valley,'" Bob Hansen, the former executive director of the non-profit Yosemite Fund, told San Jose's Mercury News.
The Park Service's new plan has its roots in a decade-long lawsuit against the park by two environmental groups, which asserted that the Park Service had violated the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by rebuilding flood-damaged properties along the Merced without a plan for how to "protect and enhance" the river. In 2008, an appeals court judge ruled that shops and rental facilities bore at least part of the blame for the Merced's degredation.