I know many of my readers have a close connection with Yosemite, so I thought you would want to know about some proposed changes to El Capitan Meadow. In most of the proposed alternatives for the park service’s Merced River Draft Management plan, fencing and signs would be installed to keep visitors from trampling the meadow.
John Sexton wrote a thoughtful post on Facebook about this issue, which I recommend reading. El Capitan Meadow has long been a favorite spot for photographers in Yosemite. Ansel Adams made his Oak Tree, Snowstorm photograph from there. Galen Rowell captured one of his most famous images, Clearing Storm Over El Capitan, from this meadow. John posted one of his wonderful photographs on his Facebook post. El Capitan Meadow is certainly a favorite place of mine too, and I’ve made many images there, including all the ones included here.
I know that the park service has a difficult job. They have to balance preservation with public use and enjoyment of the parks. Meadows are fragile, and are easily damaged by too much foot traffic, and the easiest way to prevent that damage is to fence off the meadow.
On the other hand, what makes Yosemite Valley so wonderful, so extraordinary, is the juxtaposition of soaring cliffs with the serenity of the meadows and meandering river on the valley floor. There are other places with magnificent cliffs. There is no other place with an idyllic valley surrounded by such high walls. The quintessential Yosemite experience is to wander out into a meadow, stare up at the cliffs and waterfalls, and soak up the tranquility. I would hate to see that experience taken away. There has to be a better solution than fencing and “Keep Out” signs for the valley’s meadows.
John has a good suggestion for El Capitan Meadow: to move the parking further away. One of the reasons this meadow gets so much foot traffic is that there’s a parking strip along the road for the entire length of the meadow. Removing this parking and making people walk, even a short distance, would greatly decrease the foot traffic, without installing unsightly and restrictive fences.
The comment period for the Merced River Draft Management plan ends Thursday, so there’s still time to make your voice heard. You can submit your comments here.
— Michael Frye