The Access Fund (AF) has just released a position paper on the newest draft of the Merced River Plan (MRP). The paper briefly mentions some of the major actions that the plan proposes, and highlights four specific areas that the Access Fund is urging the Yosemite Planners and National Park Service (NPS) to consider more in-depth. A link to the paper can be found here.

Comments are needed no later than April 30th, and you can comment via this webform HERE.  We support the Access Fund’s position and urge you to comment.  The Access Fund has just released an easy letter writing tool to help you submit your feedback found HERE.

Merced River Plan - photo borrowed from

Photo borrowed from

While the plan does not affect Yosemite climbing directly, it does have potential, indirect ramifications down the line.  In order to understand the possible long-term effects it is important to understand a little about what the Merced River Plan is and why the Access Fund is involved.

Essentially, portions of the Merced River are declared by Congress to be a National Wild and Scenic River, such as the part running through Yosemite Valley. This means the National Park Service has certain obligations to maintain and protect many of the natural qualities of the river, and they have attempted to implement a couple different plans over the years.  Jumping ahead to today, the NPS is now on attempt number 3 to push through a plan that would put in place the adequate enhancements and protections to preserve the Merced’s natural awe and luster as well as do some much needed maintenance while they’re at it.  So how does any of this affect us as climbers?

As climbers, we take trips to Yosemite to hike, to sightsee, and of course, to climb.  In truth, anything that affects Yosemite will affect visitors, including climbers, and the variety of ways we use the beautiful valley.  As the Access Fund’s paper points out, there are a few plans that DO deal directly with climbing in the Valley that will be coming down the pipeline.  This is why we need to pay attention.

With all these plans, there are a number of parties who will be affected and all have their own vested interests.  We, as climbers, are one of those parties but even we do not have common ground.  Among us, there are pushes for more extreme measures (e.g. doing away with parking proposals, campsites near crags, etc).  Well-intentioned as they may be, there may be possible downsides for pushing too far in the direction of our own interests. The unfortunate reality is that we’re dealing in the realm of politics.

The unspoken fear is that if we can’t help the NPS finally push a proposal through, Congress may pass a law over-riding the Park’s current plan that would likely increase commercialization and have negative impacts on the interests of climbers. The other possible problem with pulling too hard toward a more utopian plan is that climbers have been slowly making positive relationships with Yosemite Rangers and have a lot of momentum to lose in the following plans if we, fairly or unfairly, are made to look like mindless rabble-rousers.

All this aside, there is room for positive change within the latest MRP. The Access Fund has put out an open call to climbers to contact them with opinions, questions, concerns, and ideas pertaining to the upcoming draft.   Look over the Access Fund points here and comment here. At the risk of oversimplifying I see climbers as having three options: push for a more climber-centric plan now and risk losing valuable traction on upcoming plans that will directly effect us; work to have climber interests met in the current draft; or do nothing. If the latter finds you bivied under a street light outside of the new El Capitan gift shop – tough luck.

Sincere thanks to the Access Fund and Jason Keith for supplying us with mounds of information and taking the time to answer our multitudinous questions.