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Court rejects developer’s attempt to build new road into Yosemite National Park

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POSTED August 1, 2012 9:29 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court sided with environmentalists and ruled a California developer cannot build a new road into Yosemite National Park.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Solvang developer Lewis Geyser does not have the rights to two stage-coach-era dirt roads connecting his property to Yosemite. Geyser wanted to build a resort and develop the roads to let visitors enter the park directly.

"We're certainly very pleased," said George Torgun, an attorney for Earthjustice, a law firm that represented environmentalists in this case. "Yosemite is a national treasure. It's a place we don't want to see more roads constructed.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the roads at issue, Old Coulterville Road and Crane Flat Road, go roughly from the town of Coulterville in Mariposa County through Geyser's 83-acre Hazel Green property. The roads connect with Highway 120 near Crane Flat in Yosemite National Park.

Geyser wanted Yosemite to give him an easement over a quarter-mile section of park property between his land and Highway 120. But the park refused, leading to a 2007 lawsuit with the support of Mariposa County claiming he had a legal right to the now-unused dirt roads, under various easement laws.

U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger ruled against Geyser in 2010, holding that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the roads were county roads that would have given them rights to the routes.

A Mariposa County official said Geyser has not submitted a development application for the proposed resort at the heart of the lawsuit. The Mercury News reported that other available roads are indirect and likely would be more expensive to develop.

Geyer and his attorney did not respond to the San Jose Mercury News' calls Tuesday asking for comment.


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