As summer tourism heats up at Yosemite National Park, officials there are reopening one of the park’s most popular destinations. On Thursday, the park unveiled the newly restored Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
The ceremony on Thursday marked the reopening of the stand of over 500 giant sequoias. The grove of 300-foot-tall trees had been closed to the public for three years while the park carried out its biggest ever restoration project. The goal: Reduce the human impacts on the trees while still keeping them accessible to visitors.
Before the restoration, a parking lot ran right up to the trees, diverting water away from the roots. Park restoration ecologist Sue Beatty says the infrastructure was way too close—especially a tram system that weaved narrowly between the trees.
“The tram could hardly fit between the trees and sometimes the paint on the tram was rubbing off on the trees,” she said. “You'd see a green mark on the trees from the paint.”
The park removed 20,000 square feet of asphalt and replaced it with topsoil and native plants. Now, visitors park in a new lot further away from the grove, and shuttle over in hybrid buses. The old tram road was converted to a wide, wheelchair-accessible walking trail. The project’s final price tag was $40 million
These trees are historic—and not just because they’re 1,000 years old. President Abraham Lincoln preserved them in 1864—the midst of the Civil War—in what became the federal government’s first ever act of land preservation.
“It was really the beginning of conservation in the U.S.—and the world, for that matter,” said Frank Dean, president of the philanthropic organization the Yosemite Conservancy.
The project’s final price tag was $40 million.
The restored grove is located just inside the park’s south gate.