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Your Yosemite, A Threatened Public Treasure

Commercialism in the National Park System is readily apparent. Just look at the publicity generated over the past nine months from concessionaire tactics at Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon National Park to leverage profits by trademarking place names long associated with the two icons.

In a book out this month, former Yosemite Superintendent Robert Binnewies set out to warn us of the "collision between commercialism and preservation" in the parks. But he falls short of truly driving his point home.

The 336-page book from White Cloud Press provides interesting narratives on Native American history in Yosemite and whether mountainmen in the 1830s visited the Yosemite Valley. Too, Mr. Binnewies fleshes out the connections of John Muir and Ansel Adams to the park, and details the rise of lodging and other concessions in the valley.

We're given a fairly thorough primer on how Donald Tresidder came to the Curry Co. and how he successfully grew it into the Yosemite Valley's largest concessionaire. Queen Elizabeth's visit to the park in 1983 also merited a good deal of attention from the author, as does backcountry trail building and a daunting high-country search-and-rescue mission in January 1982.

But what he fails to do is draw back the curtain fully on his dealings with Ed Hardy, president of the Yosemite Park and Curry Company, and on how staunchly he fought behind the scenes to implement the General Management Plan adopted for Yosemite in 1980, a plan that said "Yosemite is too valuable to use for administration, maintenance, parking or any commercial services that do not contribute directly to a quality park experience....," but which was later put on the shelf unfulfilled.

Mr. Binnewies does mention briefly that "the political changes that had occurred soon after I assumed my post caused the NPS to go into a holding pattern; facilities in the Yosemite Valley flood plain and talus boulder zones near the cliffs that had been identified for removal in the GMP, many of them concessionaire accommodations, remained anchored in place. So, too, did the NPS housing and the ponderous maintenance yard, also targeted for removal."

But we're not privvy to what, if anything, he did within his realm of authority to see the plan implemented and how he was thwarted.

In endorsing the book, Yvone Chouinard, a well-known climber who rose to fame scaling Yosemite's big walls, writes that, "Yosemite withstands great pressures to change it; more cars, more shops, more clamor; more of everything. This book is a plea to hold the preservation line and to hold politicians and park managers accountable if they try to cross it."

The book would be more valuable if it provided some insights into how park managers might hold "the preservation line." Instead, this is a book dealing more with Yosemite's history, not on the dangers of commercialism and how a superintendent spent a good deal of his time working to protect the park's resources from it.

Comments

The real problem with Yosemite is that it's within a day trip of far too many people, and within an overnight of far too many more.  I don't see there's much to be done about the fact that the nine-mile valley is being "loved" to death, unfortunately.


Kurt, thank you for the post on the Bob Binnewies book, just excellent. I think Bob wanted to focus on the people of the park, I am ordering his book today. He was an outstanding Park Superintendent, very good hearted, highly intelligent, dedicated to both the visitor and the park resource.  It was was a pleasure to work for him. I think Megaera makes a good point, it is challenging to deal with the congestion on peak visitor use days, balancing the pleasure visitors have in accessing the park with the need to protect the vary scenic and ecological values represented by the area is a tough job. Your website is helping in this effort, and I think most of us participating do want to see these public service officials be successful in there efforts. The discussions are helpful, weather I am in agreement with some of them or not. Thanks again.  


Traveler, I just received an advanced copy of "YOUR YOSEMITE, A Threatened Public Treasure", by Bob Binnewies. I think your brief summary of this book has badly missed the marked. Bob Binnewies has a resume that is much more than a top flight assignment as Yosemite National Park Superintendent. Born in a Park Service family, a buck ranger stationed two winters at Old Faithful, National Audubon Society representative for the "Grasslands National Monument, Director, Maine Coast heritage Trust, (later) Assistant Commissioner in the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in the administration of Governor Mario Cuomo, It is little wonder that then Director Bill Whalen, selected Bob for the important task of implementing the 1980 Yosemite General Management Plan for Yosemite. By the way, Bob started his NPS career as a trails worker in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The book is an outstanding read, well researched, sensitive, no rancor, a must for all employees and interested citizens who will gain a valuable insight into the issues facing our National Parks starting with the the history of exploration, the bill authorizing the Yosemite and Mariposa Grant, well, you will not be able to put it down. For those on the website commenting on the crux issue of use versus preservation, this is the finest written history of the historic debate, lasting for over a 150 years now, that I have read. Kurt, perhaps Alfred Runte, Rick Smith or one of many of your excellent contributors could write a book report on "YOUR YOSEMITE" and do it the justice it deserves.

For those interested, it can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com, 16.00 plus tax and shipping (paperback). You will not be disappointed.


Traveler, I just received an advanced copy of "YOUR YOSEMITE, A Threatened Public Treasure", by Bob Binnewies. I think your brief summary of this book has badly missed the marked. Bob Binnewies has a resume that is much more than a top flight assignment as Yosemite National Park Superintendent. Born in a Park Service family, a buck ranger stationed two winters at Old Faithful, National Audubon Society representative for the "Grasslands National Monument, Director, Maine Coast heritage Trust, (later) Assistant Commissioner in the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in the administration of Governor Mario Cuomo, It is little wonder that then Director Bill Whalen, selected Bob for the important task of implementing the 1980 Yosemite General Management Plan for Yosemite. By the way, Bob started his NPS career as a trails worker in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The book is an outstanding read, well researched, sensitive, no rancor, a must for all employees and interested citizens who will gain a valuable insight into the issues facing our National Parks starting with the the history of exploration, the bill authorizing the Yosemite and Mariposa Grant, well, you will not be able to put it down. For those on the website commenting on the crux issue of use versus preservation, this is the finest written history of the historic debate, lasting for over a 150 years now, that I have read. Kurt, perhaps Alfred Runte, Rick Smith or one of many of your excellent contributors could write a book report on "YOUR YOSEMITE" and do it the justice it deserves.

For those interested, it can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com, 16.00 plus tax and shipping (paperback). You will not be disappointed.


Let's close the valley, tear down the building, fire most of the employees and give Yosemite back to the natives that lived there long before 1850.  


I was a seasonal ranger in Yosemite during Robert Binnewies' first year there (I also knew Ron Mackie who was my reason I got hired). It was during the former Superintendent's first address to we gathered rangers that I "confronted" him regarding the proposed General Master Plan for Yosemite. I was highly skeptical that the incestuous marriage of politics and commerce would ever allow any real meaningful change to the business-as-usual operations of Yosemite. I was of the "radical" mindset that all motor vehicles should be banned from Yosemite Valley and visitors shuttled in by buses, and by limiting how many times the buses could run per day the numbers of visitors would greatly be curbed. I was in my 20s then, today I'm 66 and I'm no less immovable in my desire to see personal motor vehicles banned from Yosemite Valley. With Delaware North's obscene commercialization of Yosemite -- by the way, a concessionaire that should never have been granted the contract in the first place -- it appears as if the Holy Grail of no motor vehicles in Yosemite Valley will never come to fruition. I have not been in Yosemite since 2004, which for someone who climbed its great granite walls since the 1960s and hiked all of its trails and even collaborated on the #1 hiking guide to Yosemite, really says something about my aversion to how the Park has been run over the past decade. I can say this with 100% certainty, I will never spend a dime of my money in Yosemite again until such time the commercial aspect of the Park goes drastically in the opposite direction from where it's been going the past few decades. I see Yosemite as "paradise lost", and that breaks my wilderness loving heart. 


Jeffery - there are 1169 square miles to Yosemite Park and 94% of that is designated Wilderness.  Actually developed area represent a fraction of a percent of the park's area.  It is a shame you break your "wilderness loving heart" by not walking the 10 minutes it will take you to get to that wilderness.


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