Horse, Bike and Rafting on the Yosemite Chopping Block

Some of the things that make Yosemite popular would be removed or destroyed under new plan

By Lori Preuitt
|  Monday, Jun 17, 2013  |  Updated 5:02 PM EDT
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View From Vernal Fall

Hiking is still permitted under the new plan.

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Yosemite National Park faces a huge overhaul that includes tearing down many family favorites. 

If the plan goes through, the ice rink and swimming pools will be destroyed and most rental options will be put out of business. 

It's all the work of the National Park Service. And it should be noted that the proposed changes are intended to protect the Merced River, which runs through the park, and come after decades of back-and-forth lawsuits filed by environmentalists. 

People on both sides of the debate say in many ways, the plan shows just how hard it is to balance public recreation while preserving the environment.

Here are specifics: Under the proposal, horse, bike and rafting rentals would no longer be allowed in the valley.  Swimming pools would be removed from both the Ahwahnee Hotel and the Yosemite Lodge. The Curry Village ice rink would be gone as would the Sugar Pine bridge. The iconic bridge, built in 1928, is located behind the Ahwahnee. 

The lawsuits helped form a $235-million "Merced River Plan" that has been in the works since the end of the 20th century. (Read the plan for yourself).

The plan will be discussed Thursday evening in San Francisco at the Fort Mason Center.

To understand why some of the most popular things to do at Yosemite would be removed, you have to got back to the 1980s and a developers idea to build hydroelectric dams on the river west of Yosemite. Environmentalist fought back and with the help of then-Sen. Pete Wilson got the river a special designation signed by then Pres. Ronald Reagan that blocked such dams.

Fast forward to 1997 when a flood destroyed 406 campsites. Environmentalist noted the special designation in a lawsuit aimed at stopping a plan to replace them.

That lawsuit lead to a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 2008 that said restaurants, hotels and businesses contributed to the "degradation" of the river, when the special designation required proof that all new things "protected and enhanced" the river.

The policy director of Friends of the River group said the current plan goes too far.

Ron Stark told the San Jose Mercury News it leaves him "heartbroken." "We were trying to block the construction of dams near the park. We weren't trying to ban recreation," Stork told the Merc. 

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