Yosemite VAMP

Yosemite’s Visitor Access Management Plan (VAMP) continues to jump through the hoops of a formal public comment process. Comments for the most recent round are due today, and I spent some time considering the many options while trying to put my own thoughts into order.

As Superintendent Muldoon put it, if it were easy, it would have been done already.

Ranger with braid in Tuolumne
(This watercolor sketch is copied from an image posted on myMotherlode.com, but based on the signature braid, I hope I can get away with reproducing the image as a quick sketch here.)

Yosemite is a beloved destination for so many people, a much-used throughway from the urban centers in the west to east side recreation in the summer, and provides a critical economic engine for most businesses in the area, so there are many perspectives and many interests vying for their voices to be heard.

Even the opponents, at least the ones who are realistic, have come to a grudging understanding that some kind of reservation system will be part of the near-term future for Yosemite National Park. Although the formal process will not be complete by next summer, there is the opportunity for a pilot program of some sort, and it seems likely that NPS will exercise that option.

Hopefully, the park leadership has at least heard the plea to make an announcement about what is going to happen far enough in advance that people can plan. Businesses need to make hiring decisions, and visitors want to pin down lodging well in advance. That timescale has to be more than a month or two ahead of time.

Currently, the park planning is in the honeymoon phase. They are taking all ideas, left right and center field, down-to-earth or pie in the sky. This was the time to put thinking caps on and start firing off ideas.

The hard and brutal work comes in the next phase. Which plans are feasible? What are the estimated costs and timelines? What investments will make the biggest impacts? Most significantly, where are the priorities? In the next phase, some people who spent a long time figuring out how their idea would work are going to be told that it’s not going to happen. 

Until the announcement comes, we’ll all be on pins and needles around here. Everyone knows that things are going to be changing, and changing is hard. But I’m optimistic that we will be taking steps in the right direction for caring for the ecosystems in the park, and preserving the park experience for the millions of visitors that love this place.