Yosemite Park Turns 150

SUBHEAD: Now some park regions will be once again be accessible only by foot, to protect delicate regions of the park.

By Sasha Khokha on 28 June 2014 for NPR News -

Image above: Yosemite is located in east central California. The park covers an area of 761,268 acres  and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. From (http://wordlesstech.com/2012/03/10/boulders-yosemite-national-park/).

Yosemite National Park, in California's Sierra Nevada, is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the law that preserved it — and planted the seeds for the National Park system. At the same time, the park faces the challenge of protecting the natural wonders from their own popularity.

Since President Abraham Lincoln signed the 1864 law that protected this land, visitors have been enjoying the park's spectacular features, from Half Dome to the giant sequoia grove — and the moonbow at Yosemite Falls.

The moonbow is like a rainbow, but at night. Some photographers time their visits to the park so they can catch a glimpse of this rare phenomenon, which is only visible when the moonlight catches the mist at the waterfall.

Four million people visit the park each year. Photographer Mark Zborowski, who's here to capture the moonbow, is among them.

He explains that the naked eye just sees a thin silvery band, but a long exposure with a camera can capture the moonbow's color. The entire scene is "just a spectacular view," Zborowski says.

"You look up, and you can see the ridges up high, and the stars," he says. "It fills your eyes — gives you a lot to feed off of."

Photography has been key to Yosemite's allure. Historians think it may have helped convince Lincoln to preserve a place he'd never visited.

Today you can still see some of the sites that appealed to those early photographers. Ranger and park historian Dean Shenk points out one of Yosemite's most famous trees, The Grizzly Giant — which he says is close in size to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

"The first photographer who came to the Mariposa Grove in 1859 took a picture of the Grizzly Giant from the angle that we're looking at today," Shenk says.

This grove of giant sequoias, together with Yosemite's iconic valley, became the first federally protected wilderness areas on June 30, 1864, when Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant.
"In the midst of our country's civil war, with all the bloodshed, all the battle, all the anxiety," Shenk says, "many of us would like to think that he took a moment and perhaps shook his head, or smiled, in just perhaps a sigh of pleasure."

Shenk compares the idea of protecting these lands to the seed of a giant sequoia, which is as tiny as an oat flake. "That seed planted by Lincoln's signature has expanded to the National Park System throughout America," he says.

But even those who urged Congress and Lincoln to preserve Yosemite warned that tourism had to be managed carefully, Shenk says. That includes Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who helped design New York's Central Park and helped oversee the Yosemite land grant.

"Not only did he predict the millions of people in the future, but he also said ... 'We must be aware of the capricious damage that one visitor might make, and then multiply it by the millions,'" Shenk says.

Olmstead and Yosemite

SUBHEAD: The vision of America's first and greatest landscape architect for wilderness preservation.

By Dan Anderson in 1998 for Yosemte -

Image above: Waterfall in Yosemite National park. From (http://www.wondermondo.com/Attractions/Waterfalls.htm).

[IB Publisher's note: Frederick Law Olmstead came to prominence with his winning design for New York's Central Park in 1853. Olmstead went on to reinvent landscape architecture - transforming it from a special service for rich landowners to the enhancements and preservation of the public commons. He designed many of the 19th century major urban parks including Brooklyn, Boston and Buffalo, Detroit, Denver, Milwaukee and many more. He also did the campus master plan for Stanford University the University of California Berkeley. His greatestwork may have been the philosophy he developed in the formulation of Yosemite Park and later the establishment of the Nation park System with the design of Yellowston National Park. For more see (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Law_Olmsted)] 

Yosemite Preliminary Report
Written in 1865 by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted when he served briefly as one of the first Commissioners appointed to manage the grant of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove from Congress to the State of California as a park, this Report offers one of the first systematic expositions in the history of the Western world of the importance of contact with wilderness for human well-being, the effect of beautiful scenery on human perception, and the moral responsibility of democratic governments to preserve regions of extraordinary natural beauty for the benefit of the whole people.

The Report also includes characteristically thoughtful suggestions for managing the Park for human access with minimal harm to the natural environment.

Olmsted read the Report to his fellow Commissioners at a meeting in the Yosemite Valley on August 9, 1865; ultimately intended for presentation to the state legislature, it met with indifference or hostility from other members of the Commission, and was quietly suppressed.

Olmsted himself left California for good at the end of 1865; he had arrived there just a little more than two years before to assume responsibilities as Superintendent for the Mariposa Mining Estate. Only in the twentieth century has his Preliminary Report come to be widely recognized as one of the most profound and original philosophical statements to emerge from the American conservation movement.


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