Yosemite: No Cars Allowed

YOSEMIT E NATIONAL PARK -- The National Park Service unveiled a plan to ban most cars in Yosemite Valley, a first for a U.S. national park.

The long-delayed plan to carry out the provisions of the 1980 General Mangement Plan, which sought to protect Yosemite National Park from the impact of traffic congestion, includes the concept of staging areas outside the park where motorists would get an orientation about Yosemite and transfer to shuttle buses to see the valley.

In a statement Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt called the plan "a major step on the way to improving the experience of our visitors while protecting the natural beauty .of this magnificent national park."

The only motorists who would be allowed into Yosemite would be those with reservations at the valley's hotels or campgrounds. The plan, if approved, could be a boon to motorcoach tour operators, said one operator.

Motorcoaches would be allowed to travel into the valley and their passengers would not have to transfer at the staging areas. Instead, they would transfer to a public transportation system within the valley once they arrived there, said Karen Davey, operations manager for Yosemite Gray Line and a member of the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation Strategy board, a new agency that is considering transit options.

"The point of the plan is to encourage travelers to get out of their cars, not to inconvenience those who are coming in by motorcoach," she said. It would become more convenient for travelers visiting San Francisco to take a motorcoach tour to Yosemite rather than rent a car and make the drive on their own.

Public hearings on the plan will be held in mid- to late-November at various locations in northern California. If approved, the ban on private cars would take place gradually over the next four years.

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