Yosemite National Park drops plans to ban bike and raft rentals

First Published      Last Updated Feb 18 2014 06:49 pm

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• Limiting the number of visitors to no more than 20,100 people a day, a number that in recent years has only been reached only once or twice a year.

The plan keeps earlier proposals to discontinue horse rentals for the public in Yosemite Valley, although horse rentals will continue at Wawona, on the southern edge of the park.

"Most of it sounds great. But it's too bad they are ending the horse rentals in the valley stables," said Peggy DeBuyser, a horse rider who owns a hair salon in nearby Mariposa. "It's a shame they don't just leave things be."

The long-running fight began in 1987, when President Ronald Reagan signed a law that designated the Merced River as a "national wild and scenic river," killing a developer's plan to build several hydroelectric dams just west of the park.

After the flood in 1997, the Park Service set out to replace campgrounds, hotel rooms and other amenities that had been destroyed. But two small environmental groups, Friends of Yosemite Valley and Mariposans for the Environment and Responsible Government, sued in 1999. They said the government was violating the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because the law required it to draw up a plan for how to "protect and enhance" the river running through the valley. The Park Service lost several rounds and then settled, drawing up the plan that many visitors said went too far.

On Friday, the head of one of the groups that sued said he is satisfied, in large part because park officials dropped plans to build a new parking lot on the west side of Yosemite Valley.

"We stopped a lot of things that we feel would have been very detrimental to the valley," said John Brady, the chairman of MERGE and a former Army officer. "We are reasonably satisfied with that. We're sorry they didn't go further to make it more of a natural area, but you have to know when to declare victory."