In a historic effort to restore the heart of Yosemite National Park to its natural state, officials are proposing to ban cars and require visitors to walk, bike or take buses to get around.
In addition, the National Park Service wants to remove a visitors center, parking spaces for some 2,300 cars and some other structures, officials said Tuesday.
Cutting back on traffic in Yosemite has been discussed for years, but this is the first time park officials have proposed such severe restrictions in the 7-square-mile Yosemite Valley that most visitors go to see.
The aim is to eliminate the estimated 7,000 cars that jam the 1.6-mile loop road around the valley every day in the summer, without discouraging the 4 million tourists who visit the 1,169-square-mile park each year.
The plan will be discussed at a series of public hearings this month. The Park Service expects to make a decision sometime next spring.
Park Superintendent Stanley Albright called the plan “a vision for the 21st century … restoring natural resources within the valley and improving visitor facilities and services.”
Park officials estimate the cost of the Valley Implementation Plan at $140 million to $270 million.
Under the proposal, visitors would park in one of four areas outside the park’s boundaries and take buses into the valley.
Once inside the valley, visitors could walk, bike or take shuttle buses around the loop road to see the park’s colossal granite cliffs and majestic waterfalls, or to reach trails, campgrounds and park hotels.
The proposal calls for restoring 147 acres to the valley’s natural condition, increasing hiking trails, removing three bridges, tearing down the visitors center and even removing the park superintendent’s residence.
It would remove some housing for concession employees, horse corrals and some campground facilities and reduce the size of Yosemite Lodge.
Environmental groups and some businesses support the proposal.
“It would require changes in how the public visits Yosemite,” said Jay Watson, regional director of the Wilderness Society. “It would make Yosemite a more enjoyable place to visit.”