Taking a Look Behind the Scenes at Yosemite National Park

Aug 3, 2016 11:00 AM ET

As featured on the Merced Sun-Star | Taking a Look Behind the Scenes at Yosemit…

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Sunshine and shadows dappled the Merced River canyon on a cool morning as I drove to Yosemite last week. Hillsides were dressed in dusty browns and variegated greens. It’s another summer in the Sierra Nevada.

Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher recently announced, “Year-to-date visitors at the end of June were increased by almost 23 percent compared to last year.”

The gateway communities also benefit from the rise in tourism numbers.

After entering the park and enjoying the view along Southside Drive for a while, I noticed a few changes: landmarks have new names.

The Ahwahnee Hotel is now called the Majestic Yosemite Lodge. Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is Yosemite Valley Lodge. Curry Village is Half Dome Village. Badger Pass Ski Area is Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area. And the Wawona Hotel is Big Trees Lodge.

On March 1 Yosemite personnel welcomed the arrival of its new concessionaire: Yosemite Hospitality LLC, a subsidiary of Aramark.

Last week I attended this summer’s quarterly meeting of Yosemite Gateway Partners along with more than 100 individuals representing multiple state and nonprofit organizations, and local tourism and government offices.

Additional changes are in the works for the park. Topics at the meeting covered sustainability, landfills, parking improvements, meadow restoration, wilderness degradation and water safety.

Lisa Cesaro and Mark Gallagher, both with Yosemite, presented future plans for long-term ecological balance during the next 15 years.

Gallagher said, “It didn’t take Aramark long to fall in love with this place and realize their work can make a difference.”

Aramark signed a 15-year contract, replacing Delaware North.

Goals include improving waste diversion, ongoing energy and water-use reduction, decreasing emissions, continuing to protect wildlife, and securing local sources for meat, seafood, dairy and produce for the thousands of meals served every day.

Installing water and electric meters, replacing existing lighting with LED alternatives, and using air-cooled refrigeration systems (instead of water-cooled), are some of Yosemite’s current ideas for energy and water use reduction. Solar technology may be a possibility as well.

Already 24 company vehicles have been replaced with electric vehicles, and NPS hopes to add more in the future.

The Zero Landfill Initiative is a partnership with the National Parks Conservation Association guided by the expertise of Subaru.

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