One of the biggest things going on in the park right now, bigger than the waterfalls, and the dogwood blossoms, is the Merced River Plan. This is the process that is going to decide what Yosemite Valley is going to look like in the future, and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’ve only managed to listen to one of the videotaped workshops so far, and haven’t attended any of them in person. Not only are these public workshops important for understanding what NPS is working with as they try to figure out what they need to do, it turns out that they are also really interesting. (I took a few screenshots of the presentation to share.)
One of the things I learned that was that the Sentinel Hotel used to be located right at the edge of the Merced River and dumped its sewage directly into the water. According to Sue Beatty, this is why the campers all moved upstream of the hotel, and ultimately one of the reasons that so many of the current campgrounds are located at the west end of the valley.
It must have been a delightful place to stay – right there on the edge of the water, with exquisite views all around. I’m sure many people were attached to that place, had met their friends there countless times and developed cherished memories of that place. Today everyone can see that long term (heck, even short term for the people that wanted to get their drinking water further down the river) this was not an appropriate use of the river. However, I wonder if back then, some little girl cried when she found out this old building wasn’t there anymore.
One of the more striking before and after images, for me, was of Devil’s Elbow in 1993 vs 1995. You wouldn’t think that two years could make such a dramatic difference, but restoration crews and planners managed to turn a tired, trampled picnic area back into a place of natural beauty. It’s almost hard to believe that this is the same location until you notice the boulder in the river in both pictures. Now, I’m told that willows, a sign of healthy riparian ecosystems have also returned to the area. Hoorah! We can make a difference.
A few commented on that sentiment after seeing an image of a rare orchid growing next to a boardwalk in a once trampled meadow later in the presentation. The decisions and sacrifices that we make now – using the boardwalk instead of wandering the meadow itself – can have other rewards down the line.