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But now, with the increase in the price of oil and gasoline, and the inflation resulting from it, there's a shortage of spending money. More or less coinciding with our economic problems—and in some ways related to them—there has been a gradual change in the attitudes of both the government and private sectors in regard to the administration of public lands. Though this may be bad news for the makers and sellers of recreational vehicles and related gadgetry, it could be beneficial for our national parks and the people who use them.
Yosemite may lead the way toward a happier future for those who wish to truly experience the out-of-doors. A master plan for Yosemite has been drawn up by the Park Service with considerable help from the public, and its goal is to enhance the natural beauty of the park by reducing automobile use.
Under the plan, day visitors would be required to leave their vehicles in lots and travel through Yosemite by bus, and a limit would be set on the number of people allowed in each day. Because 90% of the park's visitors spend most of their time in the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley (the total park is 1,189 square miles), the Park Service hopes eventually to exclude all private vehicles from this area.
More stringent rules have been established for overnight use, too, and a system of permits and reservations will cut down the long lines of vehicles waiting for vacancies.
Another plan to reduce overcrowding will involve $100 million in private funds. The Park Service feels that its stores, warehouses and offices in Yosemite Valley are largely responsible for the congestion there, and it hopes to demolish some of the buildings and relocate the facilities on less scenic ground, perhaps beyond the park boundaries. The Park Service will not ask Congress for the funds needed to relocate the buildings. Instead, a private nonprofit organization called the Yosemite Institute will attempt to raise the money for the project. Then the Federal Government will lease the facilities, gradually repay the $100 million along with interest and eventually reassume ownership of the facilities.
It remains to be seen whether these plans will be implemented and how the public will accept them if they are. I think many people will heartily approve. And I hope that Yosemite's effort will inspire similar plans elsewhere. I'd like to believe that the trend back toward the concepts expressed by Thoreau and Leopold has only begun.
I've always wanted to return to Yahi country; now another trip to Yosemite has strong appeal, too.