Pine cones the size of bread loaves. Trees that climb 20 stories into the sky. These are some of the wonders of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias at Yosemite National Park.
And under a plan developed by Yosemite staff, these and other natural aspects of the sequoia grove located not far from the park's South Entrance will be better taken care of in the years to come.
The Mariposa Grove, along with Yosemite Valley, was included in the Yosemite Grant that was signed into law on June 30, 1864. This marked the first time the federal government set aside land for protection and is considered to be the genesis of the national park idea. The Mariposa Grove contains approximately 500 mature giant sequoia trees that are among the oldest, rarest, and largest living organisms in the world.
The main objectives of the restoration plan, which is estimated to cost about $21 million according to the final environmental impact statement, include restoring degraded habitat and natural processes in the grove. This includes restoring prime giant sequoia habitat and associated wetlands that currently are being impacted by the parking lot and roads in the lower grove area.
Under the plan, tram tours of the grove will end, most visitor parking at the grove will be removed and replaced with parking near the South Entrance, where free shuttles will carry visitors to the grove. A limited number of parking spaces could be provided in the lower Grove area as well as at the picnic area adjacent to Mariposa Grove Road for when the shuttle is not in operation.
Under the plan, the abandoned historic Washburn Wagon Road alignment to the Grove would be cleared of vegetation and rehabilitated as a pedestrian path from South Entrance parking lot to the Mariposa Grove Road picnic area. Where the Washburn Wagon Road ends in the vicinity of the existing picnic area, a new trail would be constructed for the remaining distance to the lower portion of the Grove, including a pedestrian bridge across Rattlesnake Creek. An accessible trail would be constructed through the lower Grove area, and an accessible overlook to the Grizzly Giant would be provided.
Restoration and improvements to the Mariposa Grove specifically include:
* Restoring giant sequoia and associated wetland habitat
* Constructing a transit hub at the South Entrance which will allow for the relocation of the current parking area away from the grove
* Adding shuttle service between the South Entrance and the Lower Grove area during peak use periods
* Building accessible trails through the grove to allow for improved access without impacting the sequoia trees and other sensitive areas.
* Restoring natural hydrology and reducing noise by eliminating commercial tram service through the grove.
* Establishing a new pedestrian trail between South Entrance and the lower grove area, and several new accessible trails within the grove.
Following a 30-day no action period, the National Park Service (NPS) will document a final decision in a Record of Decision (ROD), which will be published in the Federal Register.
Statement by Neal Desai, Director of Field Operations for the Pacific Region, National Parks Conservation Association
“The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) supports Yosemite National Park’s preferred alternative, released today in the final environmental Restoration of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias plan. The preferred alternative strikes a sound balance between keeping the park’s beloved giant sequoias accessible to the more than one million people who visit the grove each year, while restoring and protecting these precious natural wonders for the long-term," said Neal Desai, director of field operations for the National Parks Conservation Association in its Pacific region. "The proposed actions will inspire stewardship of our country’s special places for the benefit of ours and future generations.
“This overdue plan provides resilience to the big trees by restoring wetland habitat and natural hydrology that sustains the grove for the long term. With its plan to replace the outdated tram system with new trail systems and transit services, Yosemite National Park is taking positive steps to prevent further degradation of the massive, ancient giant sequoia trees while diminishing noise in an area where natural quiet is a cherished gift. NPCA also applauds plans to improve accessibility through road access and a new trail that complies with ADA regulations.”
Traveler footnote: Those huge pine cones are from sugar pines that grow in the grove, not Giant sequoias.