Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Development in Yosemite

The Post has a good article today on construction and improvements being made by the National Park Service in the Yosemite Valley. The article highlights the tension between the Park's mission requirement of providing access to all and the need to preserve the natural splendor of the Valley itself. From the somewhat brief description of the new improvements, it sounds like much of what is being built has been designed to look like classic WPA and CCC type projects that, I think, Americans regularly associate with our national park facilities. The article mentions a number of environmental groups that are seeking to halt or prohibit further such construction. Though it doesn't go into specifics, I suspect that some of this is wrong-headed obstructionism. (Reactionary on my part, no?)

As I see it, the NPS has to balance much of the public's desire to see America's natural splendor with relative ease (often from a speeding vehicle) and those of us who would prefer to see it less trammelled and with some effort (often from a perch accessible solely by hiking). So far, I think they've done a decent job of that. If you look at this map of the park, you will see that much of the park is roadless, and that most development is concentrated in the Yosemite Valley in the southwest corner of the park. I know that some will argue that this is a blight one of the most beautiful places in the park, but it seems like a decent compromise to me between the development and the wilderness interests.

There are plenty of shortsighted, greedy shitheads in this world who would like to put in putt-putt, waterslides, hotels, and all sorts of other meretricious crap throughout the park. The NPS has not yielded to this sort of crass commericalism and, instead, is working to develop in a way that lessens mans footprint and minimizes intrusion on the natural beauty of the area. Development is, I think, a virtual given (especially in our current political and social atmosphere) and environmental groups should be trying to mitigate its effects. Thus, rather than trying to block any such development and incurring the wrath of many "average" Americans, I think that enviro groups should be working with the Park to help guide these sorts of "improvements" and protect the undeveloped portions of the Park.