YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (AP) — Yosemite National Park officials are moving forward on a $24-million plan to remove parking lots, roads and buildings from Mariposa Grove, an ancient collection of humongous sequoias.
The National Park Service could start work on removing asphalt and a gift shop from the grove in southern Yosemite as early as next summer. The restoration plan, expected to be finalized in December, is meant to help the old trees survive and thrive for future generations of park visitors.
Yosemite botanist Lisa Acree said the trees’ ability to reproduce is harmed by the prevalence of asphalt beneath their boughs.
“The trees send out thousands of seeds each year, but a lot of them land on asphalt,” Acree told The Fresno Bee.
Parking and traffic would be moved two miles away to the park’s South Entrance at Highway 41. During peak visiting times, a shuttle bus will ferry people to the grove.
The plan is to also install boardwalks over sensitive areas, so as not to disturb the ecosystem.
An estimated $20 million is expected to be raised by the Yosemite Conservancy, with the remaining $4 million coming from federal funds.
Mariposa Grove is an important piece of Yosemite’s history: it was included in the Yosemite Land Grant signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864.
It is also one of the world’s 65 remaining natural sequoia groves.
“This is such a beautiful and important place,” Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said. “The restoration project will protect it for future generations.”