Keep Yosemite Tourist-Friendly
House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
April 24, 2013
I rise today in strong opposition to a proposal by the National Park Service to remove long-standing tourist facilities from Yosemite National Park, including bicycle and raft rentals, snack facilities, gift shops, horseback riding, the ice rink at Curry Village, tennis courts and swimming pools, the art center and the historic stone Sugar-Pine Bridge. These facilities date back generations and provide visitors with a wide range of amenities to enhance their stay at – and their enjoyment of – this world-renowned national park.
To add insult to insanity, all this comes with a quarter-billion dollar price tag.
Yosemite belongs to the American people, and the Park Service’s job is to welcome them and accommodate them when they visit their park – not restrict and harass them. Indeed, Yosemite was set aside nearly 150 years ago by legislation signed by Abraham Lincoln specifically for “the public use, resort and recreation…for all time.” This proposal fundamentally changes the entire purpose for which Yosemite was set aside in the first place.
Tourists don’t go where they’re not wanted. Yosemite competes with thousands of other vacation destinations, and the more inconvenient and unpleasant park managers make it for Yosemite visitors, the fewer visitors they’ll have. That might be more convenient to them, but it will devastate the economy of all the surrounding communities whose economies depend on tourism.
The Park Service is attempting to justify this as a court-ordered response to the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This is disingenuous. The settlement agreement they refer to simply requires that a plan be adopted consistent with current law relative to the Merced River – it does not mandate such radical changes in long-standing visitor services and amenities.
Indeed, former Congressman Tony Coelho, who authored the act that designated the Merced under provisions of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, has just released a strong letter condemning the proposal, saying in no uncertain terms:
“The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was never intended to apply to the Merced River within Yosemite National Park at all. The Merced River within Yosemite National Park is protected and regulated by the National Park Service and has never needed an overlay of inconsistent and confusing regulation…The Merced River in Yosemite Valley has been recreational for almost 150 years. Yosemite Valley has never been wilderness. Any plan which proceeds should not change any infrastructure or ban any activities traditionally carried on in Yosemite Valley.”
Indeed, when Mr. Coelho authored the legislation designating the Merced as Wild and Scenic, these tourist facilities already existed and nowhere in the bill’s findings is there any mention of an intention to force their closure or to override Park policies. In fact, many of the facilities slated for removal are not even on the Merced River and do not in any way impede or affect its flow.
The officials of the National Park Service are clearly not required to take these actions. It is becoming increasingly apparent that they want to take them and that they intend to take them, despite widespread public opposition from all but the most radical elements of the Environmental Left.
Indeed, when 13 members of the California Congressional delegation, including liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike, asked for an extension of the public comment period, the Park Service grudgingly extended it by all of 12 days. Twelve days.
It is obvious that Park officials have already made up their minds and are merely walking through the formalities. I believe that this matter and related issues of public access cry out for a Congressional investigation.
In the mean time, if members of the public wish to protest the elimination of many of the Yosemite Valley’s tourist amenities and iconic landmarks, their time is running out. My website, at mcclintock.house.gov provides guidance on how people can protest this action, and I strongly urge them to do so.