Regarding the impact on Wawona
of the Draft Yosemite Valley Plan

Yosemite Valley Plan

P.O. Box 577

Yosemite National Park, CA 95389



May 11, 2000


YVP Committee:


Congratulations on a fantastic piece of work--it is an admirable and courageous effort, and clearly presented with public comment in mind. I applaud the efforts aimed at reducing the causes of seasonal congestion in the valley, plus the unnecessary clutter of infrastructure--maintenance, administration, employees, etc.


I have two specific objections to the plan, which illustrate an overall problem. In the draft YVP, the underlying philosophy of balancing human considerations with environmental restoration is unevenly applied. In some cases, this gives the appearance that there may be no underlying principle at all, but just a case-by-case tackling of specific problems. This inconsistency appears in the following two instances.


1) The removal of the stone bridges.


I agree with the assessment of impact of the stone bridges; however, I feel that impact is comparable to the impact of the Yosemite Chapel. I think that our values have not been raised to the extent that we are ready to remove the chapel and the Ahwahnee Hotel and restore those areas to a natural condition. The draft YVP has not proposed either of those actions; this shows that the draft YVP acknowledges the following principle: certain impacts on Yosemite are justified by societyís valuation of them.


Since the draft YVP ignores the impact of the chapel, why should it focus upon the impact of culturally valued stone bridges? Does it matter to people that the river be allowed to flood and meander naturally? If we were trying to restore Yosemite to a natural state, where the river could flow freely, and trees and meadows could exist without buildings and roads, we would apply that principle evenly and remove all human vestiges from the valley. In reality, we are agreeing on a park that includes human impacts to an extent that pleases us, for our own aesthetic and cultural values. Unless we plan to remove all cultural impacts from the park, we need to honestly acknowledge that we value stone bridges, chapels, and historic hotels, more than we care about their environmental impacts.


2) The creation of 200 employee beds in Wawona.


In 1911, J. Smeaton Chase wrote:

"...I for one always feel that if Yosemite has the greater glory,

Wawona has the deeper charm."


In my 17 years as pianist at the Wawona Hotel, and countless discussions on the subject with our guests, Iíve observed that most value Wawona for the peacefulness and charm, in contrast to Yosemite Valley.


I appreciate that removal of employees from the valley must create an equal impact elsewhere, but that should not mean Wawona. Since Yosemite Valley is adversely impacted by the 1000+ employee beds that the draft YVP seeks to remove, the adverse impact of 200 additional beds in Wawona would have to be proportionally greater, since the area is far more confined than Yosemite Valley. This once again shows an inconsistent application of the goals of the draft YVP, as it merely jockeys the impact from one part of the park to an equally vulnerable and precious part of Yosemite.


The impact of 200 employees will go far to spoil the rare, country atmosphere, the peaceful riverbanks, trails, swimming holes, and the feeling that Wawona is a place of respite for the Yosemite tourist, not a hangout for employees. To quote Chase once more ("Yosemite Trails" pub. 1911):


"All forest places are places of rest, and meadows and valleys

are even more so in their nature. Wawona combines them all,

and indeed I do not know a more idyllic spot. Seclusion is in

the very air, and its beauty is of that gentle and perfect quality

that does not so much command one's admiration as it quietly

captivates one's heart."

For the same reasons that the draft YVP seeks to minimize employees in Yosemite Valley, it should protect Wawona and the South Fork of the Merced from cultural as well as environmental degradation.




Tom Bopp