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Yosemite Grant Act Anniversary Celebrated With Tree Restoration Project

Evening Edition

Aired 7/1/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Yosemite Grant Act Anniversary Celebrated With Tree Restoration Project

GUESTS

Clay Phillips, Superintendent, San Diego Coast District of California State Parks

Christine Kehoe, Co-Chair, Parks Forward Initiative

Transcript

Al Golub

A cluster of large trees in Yosemite.

Exactly 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act, preserving the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. The anniversary was celebrated with a project to protect the giant sequoias.

Any visitor to the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias might not notice the 2,000-year-old trees are threatened. But the roots of the ancient trees stretch out near the surface for more than 200 feet. Parking lots sit right on top of them. Don Neubacher, superintendent of Yosemite National Park, says that puts stress on the trees.

“So the runoff from these parking lots is not getting down to the roots, it's being channeled into certain areas, all the wetlands have been interrupted so the natural flow of water which these trees really depend on have been altered dramatically, so their long-term health is definitely at risk.”

A $36 million project will remove the parking lots and paved road segments within the grove. The roads will be replaced with pedestrian trails. The Yosemite Conservancy provided $20 million for the project. It should be complete by 2016.

Parks Forward Initiative

A group made up of experts, former elected officials and advocates are in the middle of finalizing an assessment of the State Parks system. The Parks Forward Commission, co-chaired by former State Senator Christine Kehoe, is designed to address the financial, operational and cultural challenges facing the department.

The Commission was set up in response to ongoing and serious financial problems.

In its most recent draft report the commission said:

California state parks are at a crossroads, facing tough challenges — some old, some new. If California does not chart a bold new course, State Parks faces the very real prospect of closing parks, the inability to protect or steward natural and cultural or cultural resources and failing to connect with Californians of today and the future.

The Parks Forward Commission is set to adopt a long-term plan for a state park system this fall.

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