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Yosemite Visitors Criticize Cutbacks

September 07, 2004|Associated Press

FRESNO — Visitors and community leaders are speaking out against funding shortfalls at one of the country's flagship national parks, saying the resulting cuts -- to staff, trail maintenance and educational activities -- are affecting the quality of visits to Yosemite.

Some longtime visitors enjoying the park's giant sequoia groves and granite cliffs on Labor Day noticed the difference.

A the end of a four-day camping and hiking trip through the park, Miles Millstone said he found that it's harder to get information about wildlife and the environment, and there are fewer guided tours.

Millstone, from San Rafael, said it's "a shame" that kids visiting today don't have the easy access to information he found during his visits in earlier years.

Yosemite National Park needs an additional $18.5 million per year to adequately maintain infrastructure and meet the needs of its visitors, according to the National Parks Conservation Assn., a park advocacy organization with 300,000 members.

"Funding shortfalls are straining the Park Service's ability to provide visitors with a meaningful experience and to protect these great places," said Laura Whitehouse of the parks association, who was in Yosemite surveying visitors on their impressions of the area.

Staff positions have been eliminated and the number of rangers who lead educational activities is at the lowest level in more than a decade, Whitehouse said.

"You've got to look at education, and the recreational opportunities that parks provide to our inner-city youth," said Henry T. Perea, acting Fresno City Council president and sponsor of a city resolution supporting adequate funding for parks.

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