Southern California environment news and trends

Merced River plan makes compromises for visitors to Yosemite National Park

Yosemite - Peterson

Molly Peterson/KPCC

The National Park Service's Merced River Master Plan requires Yosemite's planners to consider the impact of commercial services in the river corridor. The final plan will move the rink, but not close it.

Yosemite - Peterson

Molly Peterson/KPCC

The historic Sugar Pine Bridge no longer spans the Merced River, it constrains it. But public outcry about the 1928 bridge will keep it in place, under the final plan proposed in February 2014.

Yosemite - Peterson

Molly Peterson/KPCC

The Ahwahnee Bridge, one of three old stone bridges that cross the Merced River.

Yosemite - Peterson

Molly Peterson/KPCC

The final Merced River Wild and Scenic Rivers Plan caps daily visitorship at 18,700 people to the valley floor.


The final federal plan for the Merced River, which snakes through the floor of Yosemite Valley, permits recreational activities and caps the number of visitors to the valley floor. 

An earlier draft of the Merced Wild and Scenic Rivers Plan would have ended bike rentals, shut down the ice skating rink, and taken out the historic Sugar Pine Bridge near the Ahwahnee Hotel.

Several groups committed to public access in the park objected, including business owners in nearby gateway communities.

So now the National Park Service has compromised on the ice rink – it’ll stay open but move away from the heart of the river plain, and the bridge, built in 1928, stays put. Yosemite will offer significantly more camping in the valley, and a few more hotel rooms.

The final plan is written to accommodate around 21,000 visitors at peak, a few thousand less than that on most busy days. The National Parks Conservation Association says the plan has succeeded in balancing competing interests.

But the plan may not satisfy other critics who have asked the park service to focus on Yosemite's natural features and not on its concession opportunities. 

Park officials will hold a public meeting on March 6th at 1:00 p.m.in the Yosemite Valley Auditorium, before the plan takes effect in 20 days. 

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