Earth Log

Remember that idea to build a new parking lot in Yosemite Valley?

Twenty years ago, I wrote a story about the idea to build a 1,840-space parking lot at Taft Toe in Yosemite Valley — an old idea that had resurfaced and caught plenty of criticism.

"This space belongs to the deer, and there are owls, coyotes, bears," said Jo Whitford, a concession employee at the time. "No way. You can't pave paradise and put up a parking lot."

The idea quickly faded again, as it did after it first emerged in 1978. But the environmental line from the 1970 Joni Mitchell song, "Big Yellow Taxi," still echoes in Yosemite National Park. It's just a different tune now.

I felt like I heard it at the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias on June 30 during the 150th celebration of the Yosemite Land Grant. 

They're tearing out pavement at the grove, opening up paradise to nature again and moving parking elsewhere.

At the same time, there's still pavement somewhere for satellite parking, such as the expanded South Entrance parking.

You can make the same observation in Yosemite Valley. Meadows have been restored and habitat looks better than it did two decades ago. But pavement is still a way of life on valley roads, parking lots and trails.

So are there any more arguments? Of course, there are still arguments. This is Yosemite.

The park's Merced River protection plan was stalled in federal court for more than a dozen years over environmental issues before it was settled. Those critics have not gone away.

Gateway communities worry that too many recreational opportunities could be lost in the effort to protect the river. They are watching closely.

But this is not 1994. We're not talking about paving over Taft Toe and parking cars on it. We're talking about both nature and visitors.