Sequoia National Park's Crystal Cave: Time For Some Serious Upgrades

Tourists enjoy the views in Marble Hall, the largest room in Crystal Cave. Crystal Cave was developed for public tours in 1938 and 1939 and has since had well over 1 million visitors. NPS photo.

Crumbling infrastructure. Pitiful toilets. Overrun habitat. Those are just some of the things that have Sequoia National Park officials wanting to do some major restoration and rehabilitation work at Crystal Cave.

And so they're asking for your thoughts on the proposal.

The goal of the project is to "improve the existing visitor facilities to provide a better visitor experience while restoring and protecting important cave resources," the park says in a release.

The facilities at Crystal Cave are old and deteriorated. The current restroom facility and septic system are outdated and are not universally accessible. Trash cans at the parking lot are decades old and unsightly. The ½-mile asphalt trail to the cave has deteriorated and has a failing exterior wall, broken and unsightly fencing, and damaged handrails. The existing sales kiosk is small and does not meet the needs of the Sequoia Natural History Association for providing opportunities for education and retail sales. The cave entrance area has important but previously unrecognized environmentally significant resources and could provide a large amount of habitat.

Work being considered includes improving the parking lot and picnic area, replacing the existing bathrooms with vault toilets, rehabilitating the access trail to the cave, constructing a new sales and information facility, and relocating the visitor gathering area at the cave and restoring the cave entrance to improve habitat and ecology.

Before it can begin repairs and rehabilitation, though, park officials are developing an environmental assessment that takes a look at the project and its possible environmental impacts. And now is the time for the general public to weigh in on that plan. Comments received during this initial scoping period will be used to help define the issues and concerns to be addressed in the environmental assessment and also to develop additional alternatives.

Public comment may be submitted online by selecting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks at the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website, http://parkplanning.nps.gov/seki. The public may also direct comments regarding this project to the park in writing by sending an e-mail to , or the public may mail or hand deliver their comments to:

Superintendent
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Attn: Crystal Cave Redevelopment and Restoration Project
47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271

All comments must be received by September 25, 2009.

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time.

The public is invited to visit Crystal Cave on Tuesday, September 1, 2009, for an informational presentation on the cave area facilities. A special cave tour will be provided at 10 a.m. for meeting participants, with an informational presentation will follow at the Crystal Cave parking lot at 11:30 am. Due to limited access in the cave, only the first 50 people who RSVP at 559/565-3102 will be able to take advantage of the free cave tour. However, all are welcome to attend the 11:30 public meeting and additional cave tours are offered throughout the day. More information on Crystal Cave
tours can be found at: http://www.sequoiahistory.org/cave/cave.htm or by calling (559) 565-3759.

Park entrance fees will be waived for program participants.

Comments

Caves are fragile. Boots can scuff rocks; stalactites break easily; touching the rock can affect it chemically; and the presence of many people can raise the temperature. To preserve these unique environments, some countries restrict access to caves and monitor conditions closely.