YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — After being closed to the public for nearly three years, Mariposa Grove, the storied forest of giant sequoia trees at Yosemite National Park first set aside for protection by Abraham Lincoln, is set to re-open Friday morning following completion of a $40 million restoration project.
The massive reddish-brown trees, located near Yosemite’s southern entrance, have awed visitors for 150 years. The grove’s sequoias are among the largest living things on earth, reaching up to 285 feet tall, with bark more than a foot thick and dating back 2,000 years.
But crumbling asphalt pavement, aging pit toilets, traffic jams and a diesel tourist tram tarnished the area. The restoration project, the largest in park history, aims to restore natural serenity and take pressure off the massive trees’ fragile root systems while also improving the flow of water to help the forest thrive in generations to come.
“We wanted to make it a more tranquil experience,” said Frank Dean, president of the Yosemite Conservancy, a San Francisco environmental group whose donors provided $20 million toward the project, with Yosemite officials providing the rest.
“It had been compromised,” said Dean, a former Yosemite ranger of the grove. “These trees are super-resilient. But we don’t want them to fail on our watch. This area has continued to be chipped away at with the best of intentions. What we’re doing is correcting for the sins of the past.”
This week, the only sounds in Mariposa Grove were the chirping of birds, the winds rustling branches and the babbling of nearby creeks. What had been a 110-car parking lot is now a forest floor. Pit toilets built 50 years ago have been replaced with a gleaming new restroom with flush toilets and tile work.
Crews built four miles of new hiking trails, constructing wooden boardwalks and bridges over sensitive wetland areas. And they planted thousands of native plants, including lupin, wild strawberries, and near the streams, willows, sedges and dogwood.
New boardwalks are part of the restoration of Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park (Romina Pasten/Yosemite Conservancy) (Romina Pasten/Yosemite Conservancy)
New interpretive signs explaining plants, animals and human history have been installed. And gone are the gift shop and tram rides, which featured chugging diesel trucks pulling wagons full of tourists within a few feet of the trees.
An area that once housed a diesel fueling station and tram equipment now frames a breathtaking entrance.
“We wanted people to arrive and be …
Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle