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Merced River Plan Released

Yosemite, CA — Yosemite National Park has released the final draft of the Merced Wild and Scenic River Plan.

The Merced River was designated “Wild and Scenic” by Congress in 1987 in an effort to preserve its free flowing condition and ecological values. A total of 60 public meetings were held regarding the plan, statewide. “We spent thousands of hours reading and responding to comments to make sure we understood everyone’s concerns,” says Kathleen Morse, Yosemite’s Chief of Planning. “The preferred alternative was modified to accommodate many of the changes requested during the public review.”

The final report is 3,000 pages, and you can find it by clicking here. The park has released information about what it feels are the highlights. You can read below:

Protecting the Merced River’s Health and Other Resources

• Restoring 189 acres, mostly in meadows and riparian areas. This includes the removal of 6,048 linear feet of riprap (stones and cement in and near riverbeds used for stabilization).
• Improving meadow hydrology by removing artificial fill, filling ditches, and adding culverts.
• Planting native vegetation to stabilize riverbanks and improve scenic views along the river.
• Retaining the historic bridges.
• Implementing the Scenic Vista Management Plan to protect views from historic vista points.
• Removing informal trails, non-essential roads, and infrastructure causing impacts to archeological sites.
• Retaining and preserving the Awahnee Hotel, Wawona Hotel, Wawona Covered Bridge, LeConte Memorial Lodge, Merced Lake High Sierra Camp, and other historically significant properties.

Preserving and Enhancing Recreational Opportunities

• Camping will be increased by 37% in Yosemite Valley. This includes building 72 sites in the location of the former Upper and Lower River Campgrounds, 35 walk-in sites east of Camp 4, and 87 sites at the existing Upper Pines Campground. An additional 40 drive-in campsites will be provided at the Trailer Park Village in El Portal.
• The ice skating rink in Curry Village will be moved to its historical 1928 location outside of the river corridor.
• Lodging is increased slightly corridor wide (3%) and in Yosemite Valley (5%).
• Bicycle and raft rentals will remain available in the park, with rental facilities located outside of the river corridor.
• Picnic and day-use opportunities will be improved and expanded at Yosemite Village, Church Bowl, and Happy Isles.
• Wawona stables services will be expanded.

Improving Transportation System

• Additional shuttle bus service in Yosemite Valley will alleviate private vehicle congestion.
• Regional transit to the park is expanded.
• Park roads will be rerouted to improve traffic flow and visitor safety by reducing vehicle-pedestrian conflicts.
• Significant changes to traffic circulation patterns will be made to meet ecological restoration goals and reduce traffic congestion.
• There will be an 8% increase in parking for day use visitors to Yosemite Valley. This increase includes a new 300-car parking lot located in El Portal with shuttle service to the Valley.
Managing Visitor Use to Ensure High Quality Visitor Experience
• Marked improvements in parking availability, traffic flow, and signage, along with the removal of administrative and industrial facilities will give visitors an enhanced “sense of arrival” to Yosemite Village and the heart of Yosemite Valley.
• Visitation levels will be similar to those seen over the past several years. A user capacity of 18,710 people at one time is established for Yosemite Valley, which will accommodate a peak visitation of approximately 21,100 visitors per day.
• User capacity for East Yosemite Valley will be managed using advanced monitoring and communication systems and rerouting traffic at the El Capitan Traffic Diversion prior to reaching established limits.
• Overnight-use capacity will be managed through wilderness permits and reservation systems for lodging and camping.

A public meeting on the final plan will be held March 6 from 1-3pm in the Yosemite Valley Auditorium.