National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Lower Yosemite Falls Capital Campaign

Description: The Yosemite Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1985 to solicit private contributions for Yosemite National Park, has launched a two year capital campaign to raise $12.5 million in private and public funds to correct the blighting conditions of Lower Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, California and provide an improved experience for visitors. Private donations will account for $10.5 million of the funds raised, the National Park Service (NPS) will contribute $500,000 and the park's fee demonstration funds will provide an additional $1.5 million. To date, $12 million has been raised.

Currently, over four million visitors come to Yosemite each year. Yosemite Falls is the highest, most dramatic waterfall in North America and a major destination in Yosemite Valley. Three million annual visitors experience the Lower Yosemite Falls viewing area. The entry and visitor circulation area leading up to the base of the Lower Yosemite Falls is overcrowded, severely degraded, and in dire need of restoration and enhancement based on improved design and sound science.

The Yosemite Fund, in cooperation with NPS, working with world-renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, developed the plan to rebuild and re-landscape the 56-acre Lower Yosemite Falls area. The major elements of the Yosemite Falls plan include:

  • Reconstruction of the western and eastern trails, easing the crowding and enhancing the natural, educational and interpretive opportunities of the Loop Trail.
  • Creation of a new low-profile natural stone amphitheater just off the main trail. This will provide a much needed venue for a wide variety of educational, interpretive and cultural visitor programs.
  • Provision of educational and informational opportunities along the trails. New state-of-the-art interpretive components will include comprehensive directional signs, maps and wayside exhibits.
  • Expansion and enhancement of the main viewing plaza and interpretive facilities at the Lower Falls main bridge.
  • Open vistas throughout the area to provide new or historic views of the falls and other features, such as Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Rock.
  • Protection and interpretation of Native American and early European cultural sites.
  • Creation of places for stopping along the way. Benches and alcoves designed to promote a more leisurely visit and contemplative use will be placed at multiple locations along the entire Loop Trail.
  • Removal of the existing parking lot. Restoration of the area to natural conditions for picnicking and open space.
  • Restoration of the forest and streamside habitat. Comprehensive revegetation and natural area restoration using native plants and materials are planned for the site.
  • Restoration of the Yosemite Creek braided stream system.

Drawings, NEPA, compliance and reviews are completed and 800 feet of new accessible trail was constructed. The General Contractor began major work on May 12, 2003. Currently, the Eastern trail, bridges, restroom and shuttle bus stop are under construction. The entire project will be completed by April, 2005.

The Yosemite Fund will create recognition opportunities for donors at various levels. Two large format construction signs will be built and installed by the Fund at principal locations for the duration of the campaign construction phase. Major donors will be listed on a panel identifying supporters. An exhibit about Yosemite Falls and the project will be designed, built and installed at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center and display contributors over $5,000. Long-term recognition to Yosemite Falls project donors will include a modest-sized dedication plaque that will be placed at the primary shuttle bus shelter. A panel adjacent to the existing Honor Wall at the Valley Visitor Center will be designed and installed to recognize gifts to the Yosemite Falls Campaign. The interpretive waysides being installed at different locations in the area as a part of this project will carry credit lines similar to those in other Valley wayside exhibits and to those at Glacier Point.

The Yosemite Falls restoration project is the largest private/public project ever undertaken in Yosemite Park. It is one of the first of 15 major projects resulting from the flood of 1997 and subsequent Yosemite Valley Plan. The Plan was adopted by the National Park Service in 2000 and is a long term blueprint intended to relieve traffic congestion and restore some of the park's most popular visitor attractions.

Geographic area covered: Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California.

List of partners and relationships: The Yosemite Fund and the National Park Service. Private contractors include Lawrence Halperin, Swinerton Management (Project Managers), and Mauldin-Dorfmeir Construction, Fresno Ca.

Accomplishments to date: Completed a large portion of the eastern trails system, most major bridges, some restoration of degraded sites and riverbank, removal of the busses from in front of the main falls viewing area, and the building of the new Shuttle bus stop in a rustic "park architecture" style.

Key success factors: Partnership with the private and nonprofit sectors with NPS approvals has allowed for fund raising and capacity to management a large project. Public involvement and constant communication externally and internally has helped tremendously.

Frustrations: Difficulties at some points with government budget cycles and techniques with private sector schedules and needs.

Most important lessons learned to date: Communication and good agreements up front in regard to all project phases and expectations of the NPS, partner, and contractors is important.

What would you do differently next time: Start compliance as early as possible.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): The Campaign for Yosemite Falls (video) and fundraising campaign brochures.

For more information:

Name: Bob Hansen
Affiliation: President, Yosemite Fund
Phone/Fax: 415-434-1782/415-434-0745

Name: Randy Fong
Affiliation: Project Manager, Yosemite National Park
Phone/Fax: 209-379-1022

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising _X_; Capital Improvements _X_; Facility Management _X_; Trails _X_; Design _X_; Program Delivery _X_; Visitor Services _X_; Tenant Organizations __, Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration _X_; Cultural Resources __; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services _X_; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism __; Community Relations _X_;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Bob Hansen, The Yosemite Fund, with assistance from Suzanne Brinkley, National Park Service, Planning and Partnerships, Pacific Great Basin Support Office.
Date posted: 12/31/03
Phone: 415-434-1782

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