A visitor’s initial experience in the developed portion of the Giant Forest wasn’t always positive. After a long drive from the foothills up a tortuous road, a visitor might have to fight for a parking space amongst the traffic congestion in the Giant Forest Village. Upon emerging from the car, the visitor was presented with a market, gift shops, and cafeteria, but had only a tiny kiosk staffed with a single ranger from which to obtain information about giant sequoias or opportunities for hiking. The most prominent monarch tree, the Sentinel Tree, was surrounded by asphalt. It was often noisy and crowded, and the surrounding scenery was obstructed by a haphazard arrangement of cabins and motel units. A visitor might then return to the car and drive to see the world’s largest tree, the General Sherman Tree. If the visitor were able to find a space in that crowded parking lot, he or she would still have to cross the entrance road before approaching the Sherman Tree.
National parks are often valued for an atmosphere of peace and tranquility, and visitor activities that provide a direct association or interaction with park resources are encouraged. The typical Giant Forest Village experience was far from tranquil, and visitor-use facilities did not encourage interaction with park resources or offer a significant opportunity to learn about sequoias within Giant Forest. There were also limited opportunities for people with disabilities.
More fundamentally, the commercial Giant Forest Village complex communicated to visitors that sequoias were here primarily for human entertainment. National parks are places where people can come to enjoy and learn about geologic formations and life forms much more ancient and massive than our own. That the health and longevity of these trees were subordinated to our entertainment conflicts with the respect we owe to these giant trees that are older than, and may yet outlive, modern civilization.