In Yosemite, river protection may cost historic bridges
Written byAssociated Press/Greenwire
Yosemite National Park's iconic 80-year-old Stoneman Bridge could be removed under proposed plans for restoring the natural flow of the Merced River that flows beneath it, setting off a battle that is pitting environmentalists against historic preservationists.
Photographers have long been drawn to the single arching span with a face of rough-hewn granite that provides a dramatic foreground to the park's top natural marvel -- the Half Dome. But the Merced River has been federally designated as a wild and scenic river, and some say the bridge should go, since its abutments alter the river's natural course.
That prospect has riled preservationists, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation last month placed the Stoneman and two other threatened Yosemite Valley bridges on its 2012 list of most endangered historic places.
"We're talking about nationally significant resources in arguably the best-known national park in the world," said Anthony Veerkamp with the Trust. "What happens in Yosemite has echoes throughout the National Park System."
The park has been under pressure from the courts and environmental groups for more than 15 years to write a plan for Yosemite that will balance public access against the strict protections required by the river's 1987 federal designation. Four of the five draft plans the park service is considering include removing bridges to restore the Merced's "free-flowing conditions." Two of those plans spare the Stoneman, where high traffic has caused the shore nearby to erode.
"Yosemite is known throughout the world for its beauty, but in addition to natural beauty, the cultural beauty is significant," said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman. "We take it very seriously. These are not decisions we're taking lightly."