Yosemite National Park is one of the beauties of nature that has brought me back every year for more than 20 consecutive years. But, in recent years especially, there seem to be two Yosemites -- the one discussed in the media and the one I see with my own eyes.
On the first day of my visit this year -- June 6th -- there appeared one of the standard propaganda pieces on Yosemite in the San Francisco Chronicle, illustrated with the standard propaganda photographs.
They say the camera doesn't lie but it can do some serious misleading. A standard lie of the environmental extremists is that Yosemite is "over-crowded" and choked with bumper-to-bumper traffic. True to form, the San Francisco Chronicle shows a line of cars and a couple of pedestrians scooting between them.
The pedestrians ought to give a clue as to what is wrong with this picture. The cars are not moving along a street or highway. They are stopped and lining up. Cars get stopped at the entrance to the park to pay a fee to get in and they get stopped by road construction delays inside the park.
My wife and I were among those stopped for about 15 minutes at a road repair site. When traffic is stopped dead in its tracks for 15 minutes, you can collect quite a backup almost anywhere. In Yosemite, you can also collect misleading photographs to be used to advance the political agendas of environmental extremists.
Once past the construction site, the traffic in Yosemite flowed far more smoothly than it does in San Francisco and parking spaces were far easier to find. For three days in a row, we had lunch at the popular Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley and each time we had our choice of parking spaces in the main parking lot.
If anything, the traffic was somewhat lighter than it has been in some past years. We also had no trouble finding parking spaces at Glacier Point, Curry Village or any other place in the park where we decided to stop.
Why then the campaign of lies?
Groups like the Sierra Club and other environmental zealots have for years been trying to reduce the number of people visiting our national parks. They seem to think that our national parks are their own private property, and that it would be best if the unwashed masses are kept out as much as possible, leaving the backpackers to enjoy these parks in seclusion.
Like other special interest groups, the environmental extremists have a disproportionate influence on government officials, including in this case those who run the National Park Service. One of their coups has been to get the gas station in Yosemite Valley removed. The next nearest gas station is 13 miles outside the park and it charges more than $3 a gallon.
Was the gas station in Yosemite Valley spoiling some natural scenery? Far from it. It was part of a built-up area that included motel buildings, restaurants, and a gigantic parking lot. That parking lot remains, with something like a hundred cars on it and next to it is a very unattractive tent city.
Esthetics had nothing to do with removing the gas station. The environmental zealots know that the automobile is the key to ordinary people having access to the national parks. The more hassles are created for people driving automobiles, the more people will be discouraged from coming, advancing the goal of reserving the national parks for environmentalists and for those who live the lifestyle that the environmentalists approve of.
The essence of bigotry is denying other people the same free choices you have. Many of those who call themselves environmentalists could more accurately be called green bigots.
The automobile allows people to see Yosemite in their own ways and at their own pace, which is especially important for the elderly and for families with small children. But the park bureaucrats and the green bigots want to force people out of their cars and regiment them into busses, to be taken when, where and how the bureaucrats decide.
The restrictionists love to talk about the "fragile" environment and "saving" it for "future generations." No definition of "fragile" is offered. What this amounts to is saying that future generations of green bigots can keep out future generations of ordinary citizens and taxpayers.