Challenge of the Big Trees
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Chapter Nine:
New Directions and a Second Century


A Final Development Plan For Kings Canyon

In Kings Canyon National Park, at Cedar Grove, the Park Service attempted during the 1970s to implement the same lessons it was learning in the Giant Forest/Lodgepole area of Sequoia. The 1971 Master Plan for the two parks called for camping and visitor accommodations at Cedar Grove, but offered no guidance as to appropriate size except to note that camping would not be enlarged beyond the existing 370 sites. In mid-1972, an internal draft statement suggested that the area would support accommodations for up to 260 people. The advent of NEPA mandated a fresh start with public input, however, and this effort began during the summer of 1975, using the format developed that same summer for use in the Giant Forest/Lodgepole area. Again, the Service issued a planning alternatives workbook and encouraged comments. Alternatives ranged from closing the area to the public for use as a scientific research area, to the other extreme of intensive tourist development. Only two of the six options called for any overnight use. Of these one called for no more than 20 motel rooms and no more than 400 campsites while the other allowed over 160 rooms and up to 750 campsites. [11]

Compared to the Giant Forest/Lodgepole situation, the planning effort for Kings Canyon and Cedar Grove proceeded rapidly. Surprisingly, considering previous emotions the issue had evoked, public interest in Kings Canyon remained muted. Largely absent from the scene this time were the Fresno boosters who had held such high hopes for Kings Canyon development in the 1940s and 1950s. The generation of businessmen from the nearby San Joaquin Valley who had supported creation of the park and demanded a resort at Cedar Grove in return had passed. Gone were Chester Warlow and others who had dreamed of a Yosemite-like complex and the thousands who would pass through Fresno to reach it. The new generation of Fresnans lived in a far larger metropolis, a self-centered one less influenced by economic developments in the nearby mountains. Kings Canyon and its rivers meant precious water and a precious escape from what was becoming a crowded Central Valley. In Fresno, too, environmental and wilderness enthusiasm had wrought its change on the population.

During the summer of 1975, most public comment at the Cedar Grove hearings came not from outside parties hoping to develop the area but rather from groups and individuals already using the area's facilities—people who enjoyed the canyon as it was. From these visitors came a simple message: limit development in the canyon. The highest level of new development that most participants would support was adding a small lodge while retaining the existing camping—one of the Service's identified options. In May 1976, the Service issued a draft DCP for the area, supplemented by an Environmental Review. [12] The preferred option identified in the two documents allowed a new, twenty-room lodge but no enlargement of camping or other visitor facilities in the canyon. Superintendent Stanley Albright announced the plan on June 10, 1976, as well as a comment period ending July 12. Public comment on the plan was so positive that Albright signed it with no changes. In less than a year a quiet resolution had been achieved, bringing an anti-climactic end to more than three decades of bitter argument over the future of Kings Canyon. Two years later, during the summer of 1978, Government Services, Inc. constructed a new Cedar Grove Lodge with eighteen rental rooms upstairs and a market and snack bar downstairs. Public comment on the appearance of the new facility was minimal.

map of Kings Canyon development plan
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)


Challenge of the Big Trees
©1990, Sequoia Natural History Association
dilsaver-tweed/chap9b.htm — 12-Jul-2004