Michael R. MeuserJuly 5, 2000
Yosemite National Park
Re: Comment on Draft Yosemite Valley Plan - Lodging accommodations and drive-in camping. Hello,
First I would like to congratulate you. It is clear that a tremendous amount of effort went into this draft. You weighed many options and have come up with viable alternatives for the most part. I am especially encouraged by your efforts to limit traffic in Yosemite Valley. I am very much in favor of out-of-park parking for day visitors during peak periods. I expect that you will take the necessary steps to interface these efforts with those of the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) so that the transportation system you devise takes advantage of their ongoing efforts in this area.
I do have a comment concerning lodging accommodations in your present alternatives. No matter how one looks at it, the raw number and percentage of low-cost lodging accommodations is decreased substantially in all other alternatives when compared to alternative 1 while the number and percentage of higher cost lodging accommodations increase. I gathered the following figures from the Yosemite Valley Plan Fact Sheet 4 (May 15, 2000). Fact Sheet 4 only provided raw numbers. I added percentages so that I could get a better picture of the relationship between lodging accommodation groups.Alternative 1 provides:
Mid-Scale and Deluxe
Alternative 2,3, & 4 provide:
Mid-Scale and Deluxe
Alternative 5 provides:
Mid-Scale and Deluxe
Alternatives 2,3,4, & 5 add from 6.4% to 8% to the number of mid-scale and deluxe lodging accommodations while reducing substantially the number of rustic and economy lodging accommodations. Alternative 2,3, & 4 reduce this number from 872 to 562, a reduction of 35.6%. Alternative 5 reflects a reduction in this number from 872 to 731, a reduction of 16.2% (see table 1. below).
Table 1. Changes in the Sum of Rustic Plus Economy Compared to
Sum of Mid-Scale and Luxury: Alternative 1 vs. Other Alternatives
Alternative 2,3 & 4
Rustic & Economy
Mid-scale & Luxury
If one looks at low-cost (rustic) lodging accommodations compared to the rest, the reductions are even more drastic. While the total of economy, mid-scale, and luxury increase substantially, the numbers of low-cost lodging accommodations is reduced drastically. In alternatives 2,3, & 4 the total of economy, mid-scale, and luxury increase from 569 to 779, an increase of 36.9%. In alternative 5 the same group increases from 569 to 832, an increase of 46.2%. Low-cost lodging accommodations drop from 691 to 202 in alternatives 2,3, & 4, a reduction of 70.8%. These drop from 691 to 312 in alternative 5, a reduction of 54.8% (see table 2. Below).
Table 2. Changes in Rustic Compared to the Sum of Economy,
Mid-Scale, and Luxury: Alternative 1 vs. Other Alternatives
Alternative 2,3 & 4
Sum of Economy, Mid-scale & Luxury
Fact Sheet 4 indicates a drastic drop in lowest cost lodging accommodations (Fact Sheet 4 refers to these as "rustic") when any of the other alternatives are compared to alternative 1. Alternative 1 provides for 56.8% rustic lodging accommodations.
Alternatives 2,3, and 4 only provide for 20.6% rustic. Alternative 5 provides for 27.2% rustic. Alternatives 2,3,4, and 5 all result in a drastic reduction in rustic lodging accommodations.
If one considers drive-in camping as "rustic" or low-cost accommodations, as I believe the NPS should, the picture gets even worse. Prior to the flood there were 800 drive-in campsites. Add this to the 691 rustic accommodations provided in alternative 1 of 691, totals 1491 low cost accommodations in Yosemite Valley (note: this number is actually somewhat higher but the Draft Yosemite Valley Plan and Fact Sheets do not make mention of losses as a result of the flood). Compare this to alternative 2,3,4 that provides for 202 rustic lodging accommodations and 295 drive-in campsites for a total of 497, a reduction of 66.7%.
This is a loss of 994 or two-thirds of low-cost overnight opportunities ! The situation is somewhat less sever in the case of alternative 5. Alternative 5 allows for 443 drive-in campsites and 312 rustic lodging accommodations for a total of 755. Compared to pre-flood figures (see note above) this represents a decrease of 736 low-cost overnight opportunities (see table 3. Below).
Table 3. Changes in Low-Cost (Rustic plus Drive-in Camping)
accommodations: Pre-Flood vs. Alternatives
Alternatives 2,3 & 4
You say in your Fact Sheet 4, "The NPS is committed to ensuring that there be a range of cost options available for visitors staying in Yosemite Valley. Overnight visitors would continue to have choices about where to stay and what kind of experience they would have." Clearly, you still provide the range, but you have skewed it drastically towards accommodating those with higher incomes at the expense of those with lower incomes.
I see no rationale for skewing the lodging accommodations in this manner. Why should the numbers of higher cost lodging accommodations increase while low-cost lodging accommodations decrease? Low-cost lodging accommodations could be located in areas where you now plan to build high-cost units using the same proposed footprint. In fact, if designed properly, low-cost units would be more efficient as they would use less land, less building materials, less labor, less resources (lighting, heating and cooling), and less routine maintenance.
If our National Parks and their values are to be appreciated and supported by all segments of our society, the NPS must do as much as possible to assure that a wide and representative range of Americans can afford to visit and stay in Yosemite Valley. The NPS should do everything to maintain the historic and present numbers of low-cost opportunities to stay in Yosemite Valley and even increase them if possible.
I also encourage the NPS to look into the "environmental justice" aspects of their decisions as well. Environmental justice is yet to be fully defined, but it is reasonable to believe that it not only means that low-income and minority populations should not be exposed to environmental "bads", such as pollution, more than the rest of the population, but that it also means that they should have equal access to environmental "goods" such as affordable accommodations in Yosemite Valley. Maintaining present low-cost to higher-cost accommodation ratios, as a minimum goal, will help achieve this goal.
I am very fortunate to have spent hundreds of overnights in Yosemite Valley during my lifetime. I have stayed in the range of lodging accommodations (including camping) with the exception of staying at the Awhanee. I have even stayed in a tent cabin in mid-winter, waking up to find my clothing frozen. None of these lodging experiences have been better or worse than the others, but each have been enjoyed for their unique offerings.
What makes the Yosemite Valley experience wonderful and like nothing else on earth has less to do with the lodging, and more to do with the Valley itself. I will encourage you one final time by saying this: higher income folks will not be excluded from Yosemite because there is too much low-cost lodging available, but lower income folks will be excluded if there is too much high-cost lodging available. Higher cost lodging should not come at the expense of lower cost lodging as your present alternatives 2 through 5 reflect. At least maintain current (alternative 1) ratios, strive to reach historic levels, and encourage folks by your decisions to enjoy Yosemite Valley for itself in the simplest, least resource using, and most ecologically sensitive manner.
Michael R. Meuser,
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