After lots of public input and meetings, Yosemite Park planners created a variety of alternatives for managing the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River and the heavily visited Tuolumne Meadows area through which the river flows.
Many long-time visitors have deeply held emotional ties to the river and to Tuolumne Meadows in particular. As Park planners have pointed out, many people who are asked their opinion simply say: "Keep Tuolumne Meadows just as it is!" That is one option.
But CSERC also recognizes that the Tuolumne River "Wild and Scenic River Plan" is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly balance a high level of recreational visitor use at Tuolumne Meadows with a significant increase in protection for the many outstanding values of the river corridor, for the surrounding wild lands, and for the meadows and plants that benefit wildlife species.
In August, Park planners unveiled their "preferred alternative" plan for managing Tuolumne Meadows and developed areas along the wild and scenic portions of the Tuolumne River. CSERC had hoped that some of the commercialism, noise, lighting, and congestion would be proposed to be phased out in order to better protect the high mountain wilderness ecosystem along the river. Instead, the Park's preferred alternative is a major disappointment. The only commercial facility that would be phased out would be the gas station. The store, the grill, the number of campsites at the campground, the Glen Aulin wilderness camp, Yosemite Lodge, and the commercial stables would all stay in operation at near-current levels of use.
The Park deserves credit for proposing some minimal beneficial changes in the preferred alternative that would be primarily tied to reducing some of the scenic impacts that presently mar the visual beauty of the meadows area. Cars would no longer be permitted to be parked along the highway in long lines and some Park operations would be combined in revised facilities to reduce scenic impacts.
But Tuolumne Lodge would still have a significant amount of lodging, tent cabins, and vehicles located within the river corridor. The high number of Park Service campsites would still result in high levels of use, wastewater, and other ripple effects. Trail rides would still compact broad trails throughout the meadow complex. The commercial stables and the Park stables might be combined, but the stables would still pose water quality risks and watershed impacts. Glen Aulin would still be a commercial camp in the midst of wilderness. And for countless visitors who come to experience the world-renowned meadows and their surrounding wild lands, the Park's plan would do little to enhance or protect the river's outstandingly remarkable values.
As noted above, CSERC staff recognizes that even amongst our members, there may be many different views as to what to keep for the long term and what to phase out in order to benefit the natural values.
You can learn more about the preferred alternative for Tuolumne Meadows by going to the Yosemite Park planning website and clicking on "Tuolumne River Plan." Plan updates should be posted regularly, and you can submit your own personal views as to what you would like to see decades from now at this unique and popular area.