One of the most iconic spots in the National Park System is now officially an historic place.
Yosemite National Park's Half Dome, the trail that climbs its smooth shoulder, and the cables that line that trail were quietly added to the National Register of Historic Places a month ago.
No release of the listing was made by the National Park Service, and no explanation for the listing was given, though folks who have managed to negotiate their way to the summit of the granite dome no doubt won't argue with the decision. After all, they can now claim they've climbed a piece of history!
Not everyone approves of all that history. George Nickas, executive director of Wilderness Watch, told The Associated Press that the cables the help you up the final 400 ridiculously steep feet of the trail to the summit are not appropriate for a wilderness area, of which Half Dome is part of.
Park officials currently are finalizing a plan for how best to handle hiking traffic on the route to Half Dome. The Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan Draft Environmental Assessment, which was closed to public comment back in March, has said limiting the daily number of Half Dome hikers to 300 "provides the best combination of accessibility to the summit, free-flowing travel conditions on the cables, which improves safety, and low encounter rates on the trail, similiar to use levels found on other high-use trails in Yosemite's wilderness and other wilderness areas."
Half Dome long has attracted throngs of hikers -- some experienced, some not, some well-equipped for the task, some not -- and at times there have been accusations that the heavy, unregulated traffic to the top of the iconic dome has played a role in some accidents on the dome's steeply pitched shoulder.
To give you an idea of how crazy it has been reaching the top of Half Dome, in 2008 there were days when upwards of 1,200 people tried to summit the dome, according to Yosemite officials.
Not everyone agrees the park should work to better manage the traffic on the trail. One comment received during the public review of the draft plan stated, "I disagree with limiting the number of visitors to Half Dome. Having to compete with a slot to hike an 18 mile trail to Half Dome makes Yosemite feel like Disneyland, and not a park."
Wrote another: "Yosemite is often referred to as the "Disneyland of National Parks" and no one hike supports that negative public image more than the Half Dome cables hike. This image clearly demonstrates that, even in the public eye, the pendulum has swung too far in favor of the interests of commercial exploitation and away from conservation and protection of land, watersheds, and of public safety. Let's take this opportunity to shift our learned perspectives and align our values with our management practices. The most beneficial option, by your own research, for all stakeholders is Alternative E."
Alternative E calls for removal of the cables.