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Yosemite admission free nine days in a row


File photo / Union Democrat Entrance fees will be waived at Yosemite National Park for nine days, April 16 to April 24, to celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service. Royal Arches, Half Dome and Mount Clark can be seen from Upper Yosemite Fall Trail before Jan. 31 2015.

For the first time in recent memory and perhaps the first time ever, entrance fees will be waived at Yosemite National Park for nine days, April 16 to April 24, to celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service.

Typical entrance fees at Yosemite are $15 per person on foot, bicycle, horse, or non-commercial bus or van with more than 15 passenger seats, $20 per motorcycle, and $30 per non-commercial car, pickup truck, RV or van with 15 or fewer passenger seats.

All other fees, including camping fees, will remain in effect.

“I don’t recall, when, if ever, this has happened before,” Scott Gediman, a veteran public affairs officer in Yosemite, said Thursday. “It’s special this year because of the National Park Service Centennial. We are encouraging people to visit in this special Centennial Year, and the free admission during National Park Week is a part of that effort.”

Free entrance to Yosemite is also intended to urge people to recognize and celebrate Earth Day and National Junior Ranger Day.

The centennial celebration of the National Park Service is nationwide. People can get in free at more than 400 national parks in 50 states from April 16 to April 24, including Sequoia & Kings Canyon, Death Valley and Joshua Tree.

Gediman said events planned for National Park Week in Yosemite include showings of the Ken Burns documentary films “This is America” and “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” walks with park rangers, hikes organized by centennial sponsor Recreational Equipment Inc., and family friendly events, all free of charge, during the Earth Day Festival on Saturday April 23.

Free rides for Earth Day

Most visitors in Yosemite will be in Yosemite Valley during National Park Week. Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road are still closed due to snow. Tioga Road plowing operations begin April 18, according to the Park Service. There is no estimated opening date for Tioga Road or Glacier Point Road. They usually open sometime in May.

The public bus service called YARTS, for Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System, will offer free rides from Merced and Fresno on Earth Day, said YARTS analyst Cindy Kelly.

Two buses from Fresno are already full. As of Thursday, seats still remained on one of two buses from Merced. Email Kelly at cynthia.kelly@yarts.com to make a reservation.

There will also be four regularly scheduled buses, five from Merced and four from Fresno, Kelly said. Round-trip fares are $25 from Merced and $30 from Fresno. Youths 16 and under ride free.

The terminus for all YARTS buses in Yosemite will be Yosemite Village, where most Earth Day activities are planned.

The YARTS buses serving Sonora, Jamestown and Groveland begin running May 16 to May 27, with one bus daily, then May 28 to Sept. 5 with three buses daily, and Sept. 6 to Sept. 30 with one bus daily. Roundtrip fares to Yosemite Valley will be $25 from Sonora and Jamestown, and $15 from Groveland.

Routes covered by YARTS include Mammoth Lakes on the Eastside Sierra. The system provides public transportation to nearly 100,000 riders per year and it’s managed by the Merced County Association of Governments.

“From our perspective, our ridership numbers are increasing,” Kelly said. “So it looks like the economy is improving a little, there’s a little more money in people’s pockets and they want to go to Yosemite. So we’re doing outreach to make sure people know we’re here. We try to let people know they can be stewards of the park by choosing public transportation and leaving their cars at home.”

For more information about YARTS routes and schedules, go online to yarts.com online. For more about National Park Week in Yosemite, including the Earth Day Festival, go online to www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide.htm.