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Meddling With Paradise

January 15, 2002

It took 20 years for thousands of involved citizens and national parks employees to hammer out the right plan for ridding Yosemite Valley of smog, automotive gridlock and overcrowding, while preserving access for all who want to visit. Rep. George P. Radanovich (R-Mariposa) should not be allowed to undo it, despite his power as chairman of the House national parks subcommittee.

Radanovich toured the one-by-seven-mile valley the other day with National Park Service chief Fran Mainella to lobby her to unravel core parts of the plan, especially vehicle restrictions in the valley.

In an interview with The Times' Eric Bailey, Radanovich made the silly claim that environmentalists "want to make the park so hard to get into that people just won't come." That is not what the signed and sealed plan will do. It will return parts of the valley to a natural state by limiting parking spaces and relocating campsites. It will establish a frequent, convenient shuttle system that should make visitors happy that they were able to leave their cars in out-of-valley parking lots.

The plan will restore meadows, particularly along the banks of the Merced River, and rid the area at the foot of Yosemite Valley of its motor-and-foot-traffic madness. It will again be more natural wonder and less urban blight.

"No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite," naturalist John Muir wrote.

Radanovich is carrying the views of tourist-related businesses outside the park that fear that the plan will limit the number of visitors and cost them profits. More likely, the plan, when implemented over a period of years, will attract more visitors to a more enjoyable and meaningful experience. The plan is for them, but some merchants are likely to see more business as less.

Since the destructive flood of five years ago, the Park Service has carried out a heroic effort to make the valley a more natural place. Rep. Radanovich has no call, and no right, to try to undo it.

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To Take Action: Call Rep. George Radanovich's toll-free comment line, (800) 506-9463, or navigate his Web site, www.house.gov/ radanovich/, to send e-mail. For Park Service Director Fran Mainella, call (202) 208-4621; fax, (202) 219-0910.

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