November 05, 2015

An open letter to Yosemite National Park

Twlight, near the start of the Mist Trail
The recent vacation of mine was, by my count, the fourth time I've visited Yosemite, including my second trip to upper Yosemite.

While its natural beauty is still great, despite the ongoing California drought, the park's management is behind the curve in a number of ways.

Here's more.

First, it needs to start installing the water bottle fillers that several other parks have. In my last two vacations, I’ve seen them at Canyonlands, Rocky, Arches, and Yosemite’s southern neighbor, Sequoia, as well as Lassen.

For the unfamiliar, this is like a water fountain, but it pours from the top down into the top of a water bottle or CamelPak. It has an automatic cutoff when a person removes the bottle or bag. And, by being built into a wall, it’s better insulated against cold weather.

I saw none in Yosemite. And, beyond that, at the park services complex at the end of the Yosemite Valley road, I saw relatively few water fountains of any type.

Second, I also “saw none” in terms of solar panels. (This was true at other California national parks, too.) I’m not saying that parks should go out of their way to install them, but, when roof repairs are needed, you better do this!

Zion is, for me, the epitome of this. When it built a new visitor center, it incorporated several active and passive solar features, and for summer temperatures, also built it with breezeway designs and other passive cooling features.

And, ditto for concessionaires. (I’ll have a separate blog post soon about a concessionaire lawsuit against the National Park Service over Yosemite.)

Speaking of concessionaires, and that lawsuit (over a change in concessionaire contract), Yosemite is too pricey. Look, I know that national park concessionaires have some freedom to charge more by both the nature of their service, and in some cases, parks being isolated.

But, $14 for a chili dog at the Ahwahnee Hotel’s snack bar or whatever? Ridiculous. (Not to mention the $475 as cheapest lodging stay at that hotel.) And, not to pick on it, but Curry Village (also operated by the same concessionaire) wasn’t a lot cheaper. Even it was high by national park standards. And, I’ve eaten meals at the El Tovar on Grand Canyon’s South Rim, the lodge at GC’s North Rim and the Old Faithful Lodge at Yellowstone, among others. If the change in concessionaires lowers prices, it’s a good deal right there.

That said, having written this summer about the decline and fall of the National Park Service, I'm not holding my breath over much of this.

(And, no, despite another recent post, and more to come, I'm not in an "I hate California" mood.)

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