By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
Yosemite National Park officials will take comments through May 4 on a plan to restore former valley campgrounds to their natural states.
The Ecological Restoration of Flooded Campgrounds Environmental Assessment addresses restoring oak woodlands, wetlands and shoreline habitats in place of campgrounds along the banks of the Merced River in the east Yosemite Valley. A 1997 flood wiped out more than 800 sites along the river.
The restoration project is controversial because the park has not made up for the lost campsites. Brian Kennedy, spokesman for Congressman George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, said Radanovich opposes the ecological makeover because it restricts access to the park.
"His biggest point is if they are not restored exactly as they were before the flood, then they should be provided for elsewhere so the overall number of campsites does not decline," Kennedy said. He added later, "the congressman feels that it is wrong to increase taxpayer-funded dollars for Yosemite and at the same time reduce services for the taxpayer."
While Kennedy said Radanovich prefers to keep campsites near the river, the congressman may be satisfied by replacing the numbers with campsites elsewhere in the park.
John Buckley, director for Twain Harte's Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, said that is what he would like to see happen.
"If every 50 years a site is going to have a wall of water pouring through it and significantly harming the campground facilities, then it seems obvious that such an area should be managed for a natural flood plain area," Buckley said.
Scott Gediman, Yosemite spokesman, said park officials are looking for other campground sites, but until then, must go on with restoration directed under the Merced River and Yosemite Valley plans.
Park officials are waiting for a report prepared for Congress to be released, identifying potential campsites outside the valley, he said.