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Yosemite Institute (YI) Henness Ridge Development

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:09 pm
by Yosemite Native
I hope everyone is aware that the Yosemite Institute (YI) plans to build a 37 acre campus at Henness Ridge, Yosemite West is approved and on track.

Please be aware that this campus will be quite large and built on Yosemite National Park Land, you know OUR park. Much of it is undisturbed virgin forest and potentially hundreds of old growth Sugar Pine and Cedar trees will be cut down.

I did a walk through last Friday and I must say I was amazed at how large the campus will be. They now have markers all through the area and they say "road" , "trail", "cabin" etc.

They had markers last year for folks to look at and get a sense of the size and this was done for the public comment period. The markers they had then only encompassed 1/4 th of what they have now. It was very misleading.

This project has been fast tracked through with many comments ignored. A large contingent of NPS EMPS and other locals can not believe that this has been approved.

The YI also drilled a new well on Yosemite National Park land 2 years ago right next to Indian Creek to supply water for the campus. The YI got Yosemite West Homeowner approval by promising fire protection as the campus will have its own fire station.

MERG comments

PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:11 pm
by Yosemite Native
Yosemite Institute (YI) Plans for an Environmental Education Center (EEC) at Henness Ridge (Near Yosemite West)

The following comments were received via the MERG website. They are comments provided as a service to the community. MERG has received a presentation on YI’s plans at Henness Ridge, but has not taken a position on this project.

July 10, 2009


After reading the DEIS, talking to people and doing research on the educational programs of the other National Parks, I find that the plan to relocate the Yosemite Institute to the Henness location would have more impact than the NPS is letting on because there have been changes to the plan that have not been widely made public. I have also learned that the Yosemite Institute has much more influence on the decisions made by the NPS in Yosemite than people realize. I feel that National Parks belong to the citizens of the US and should be protected and no private entity's needs should come before environmental protection of a park.

Through my research I have found that there are only two other National Parks that have facilities on the scale of what is called for in the Yosemite Institute plan and those institutes teach a broader spectrum of visitors than the Yosemite Institute does. Other National Park's Institutes have fantastic programs that do not require a facility like the one that might be built at Henness Ridge.

I am also concerned about the fact that the Yosemite Institute wants to rent the new facilities at Henness Ridge to private groups when they are not in session. The public is being led to believe that the facilities are going to be for educational purposes only.

While I agree with the importance of the removal of the Yosemite Institute from the Crane Flat area, I feel that not enough other options were considered. Despite the desire of the Institute to remain inside the park, I feel that over development in Yosemite is a huge issue and relocation of the Institute outside of the park would be an wise environmental choice.

I was wondering what, if any stance, does MERG have on this plan. I do have other concerns about the YI DEIS and will forward them in another email if anyone is interest.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Name Withheld By Request

10 July 2009

Here’s a nutshell distillation of my comments on Yosemite’s DEIS for the Environmental Education Campus project.

I am dismayed to have to express my doubts about the benefit of the EEC project for the park or the institute. This development is just not necessary for Yosemite and I hope informed folks will oppose this project while supporting YI’s valuable work in other ways.

There are nine purpose and need statements for this project but just one of them is at the crux of this whole endeavor: move more students out of DNC lodging so that YI’s expenses are lower. This financial model alone has been the rationale for this project for the past ten years of YI planning, but the critical need to mitigate the cost of contracted food and lodging can be met in ways that have not been adequately explored and which don’t involve developing 8.5 acres of the park.

1. There are more than enough affordable beds in Yosemite for more YI students already; additional beds are superfluous in this overbuilt park. Removing students from Yosemite Valley diminishes their educational experience.

2. NPS has not given adequate assurance to the public that this project will solve the key issue of either lowering YI tuitions or increasing scholarships.

· it could be helpful if the YI financial model that drives this project were made public

· in a key statement, the DEIS mentions only that ‘a 10-20% increase in scholarship funding is possible’

· this is less than 50,000 a year – not worth it for Yosemite

3. NPS owns the “expensive commercial lodging” and sets the prices that are charged.

· NPS believes in environmental education

· the concession contract is up for bid soon; low food and lodging prices for EE programs can be locked into this contract right now for the next 15 years

· the current concessioner is a big supporter of YI and has a mission orientation that favors environmental education; it will win by sustaining YI

· the concessioner can be allowed to make up the low YI prices by charging more where guests can afford it: a 10% ‘bed tax’ at the Ahwahnee and the High Sierra Camps would offset DNC’s financial support for YI

4. To make the program affordable for needier schools and students, even if there’s a new campus, YI will still need to rely on providing scholarship funds as it does now

· even if a new campus is built, it will be only fractionally less expensive to operate than it is to pay for NPS/DNC food and lodging (partly because of much higher busing costs they’re creating)

· putting efforts into raising outside funds to enlarge the scholarship pool instead of enlarging the developed footprint will solve the park’s problem of YI being too expensive at far less cost and resource damage

All the legitimate stated needs for this project can be or are currently being met without any new development in Yosemite. I hope well-meaning people won’t be misled into supporting this project.

I am a proud former employee of YI and NPS (I am NOT a ‘disgruntled former employee), deeply honored to have Yosemite Institute on my resume. My wife and I contribute money to YI every year, I participate in YI social events regularly, I attend YI formal functions on a routine basis, I know almost all the current YI faculty, staff and board, and since leaving YI I have been repeatedly asked to contribute my time and expertise to YI for in-service trainings, etc. In my current job I am privileged to often have the opportunity to hire excellent YI instructors for short-term work. This spring I was honored with one of the state’s highest environmental education awards largely because of my work for YI over the years. I am a huge supporter of a strong future for Yosemite Institute.

Yosemite Institute is one of the best environmental education programs in the world and is one of Yosemite National Park’s most powerful resources; this project is not worthy of Yosemite.

Name Withheld by Request