Many Yosemite Visitors Want Their View and Comfort Too
As battle lines formed Tuesday over the plans to upgrade lodging in Yosemite National Park, a survey of park visitors indicated that many want the comforts of home and nearly half oppose plans to reduce the number of rooms available.
Not only do visitors want a room with a view of Yosemite’s natural splendor, many demand one with a bath, according to Yosemite Park Supt. Michael Finley.
“Getting up at 2 a.m. with a flashlight to wander around is not something many people appreciate,” Finley said in an interview.
A summary of the survey, obtained by The Times, came amid conflicting ideas from conservationists and business interests about a National Park Service proposal to make changes in the park’s mix of lodging and other facilities.
The proposed concession services plan, officially unveiled Tuesday, calls for reducing the 1,782 lodging units in the park by 13%--pleasing environmentalists but upsetting others.
It would achieve the reduction by demolishing cabins without running water, and would add 340 new motel-style rooms with full plumbing. Campgrounds and wilderness permits are not affected by the plan.
The plan will become the basis of the National Park Service’s requirements for a new Yosemite concessionaire--the private business given exclusive rights to operate hotels, restaurants and other commercial services at the park. A new 15-year concessionaire contract is scheduled to be awarded in 1993.
Preliminary results from a survey of 470 visitors to the park in the summer of 1990 indicate that reducing the number of park accommodations is unpopular. Among visitors who arrived at Yosemite by private vehicle, 48% opposed the Park Service’s plan at the time to reduce overnight lodgings, while 32% supported it.
The survey also found, on other issues controversial at Yosemite, that 71% of automobile passengers opposed a day-use reservation system. More than 82% of automobile passengers favored a shuttle bus system that would require them to park their cars in lots up to an hour’s drive away from Yosemite Valley. The mandatory shuttle system is under consideration as a method to restore the valley to a more natural setting.
The survey was conducted by Texas A&M; University professors for the Park Service.
At press conferences Tuesday in Washington and San Francisco, Park Service officials said the new concession proposal attempts to balance protecting the natural beauty of the park with the needs of its 3.5 million annual visitors.
National Park Service Director Jim Ridenour said in Washington that “old and dilapidated” accommodations without indoor plumbing will be replaced by more expensive units. But, he said the goal is “to put more units in the mid-range” while serving visitors seeking the lowest- and highest-priced rooms.
The plan covers all commercial services in the park including restaurants, clothing and souvenir shops. It calls for increasing the availability of fast food, removing the valley’s ice rink, tennis courts and beauty salon, and moving the concessionaire’s headquarters from the valley. Items sold in gift shops would be required to have a “relationship to Yosemite.”
But most attention Tuesday was focused on the lodging issue. The 13% cut in lodging units was applauded by Joan Reiss, Western regional director of the Wilderness Society. But she was critical of plans to reduce the number of low-priced rustic cottages and tent cabins.
A total of 340 new hotel and lodge rooms, individual cottages and cabins with bathrooms would be built, while 376 of the park’s 855 tent cabins would be dismantled, along with other cabins without baths.
“What are we doing trying to scale this to an upscale tony experience? This is a national park. By definition it has rustic qualities about it,” Reiss said.
Finley, however, said that if the proposal is carried out, 30% of the lodging units would still be without baths, compared to 60% now. He also said the tent cabins would be spaced farther apart.
John Poimiroo, vice president of the Yosemite Park & Curry Co., the park’s current concessionaire, warned Tuesday that removing 20% of lodging units would result in the building of more motels outside the park. That, he said, would lead to more commuting traffic inside the park.
Poimiroo, who said he was speaking for himself and not the Yosemite Park & Curry Co., earlier wrote to the Park Service urging that there be no reduction in the number of accommodations in the park, although he called for more motel rooms with baths and fewer tent cabins.
Contributing to this story was Times staff writer Rudy Abramson in Washington.