The National Park Service plans to improve visitor experience, address deferred maintenance, improve safety, and increase operational efficiency at the Big Oak Flat Welcome Center Complex. This park entrance welcomes about one million visitors annually from the park’s western border. The complex (formerly called the Visitor Contact Station) provides a public restroom, information, campground reservations, wilderness permits, bear canister rentals, and retail sales. It also currently serves as the district law enforcement office. The project will improve visitor orientation and safety, reduce lines, and upgrade accessibility and utilities. The project’s environmental assessment is available for public review until December 20, 2018.
The park hosted a public meeting in May 2018 to present the project, answer questions, and solicit feedback from the community. The formal public scoping period closed in June 2018.
The park initially proposed constructing a separate facility in the Hodgdon Meadow area to house law enforcement/emergency services. This was ultimately not included in the preferred alternative due to the additional information needed to determine the preferred site and design approach for this facility. The park is now planning this facility as a separate future project.
The environmental assessment presents a preferred alternative that proposes the following actions:
- Construct a new welcome center to unify visitorservices and replace the modular building andtrailer that currently house these functions
- Construct a new adequately sized comfort station to replace the aging, undersized one
- Construct a plaza to connect the new welcome center and comfort station buildings, and house informational and orientation panels
- Reconfigure the existing parking lot to decrease vehicle-pedestrian conflicts and reduce congestion
- Construct a small, unpaved staff parking area along Tuolumne Grove Road to reduce congestion
- Install a sewer to connect the welcome center complex to the Hodgdon community septic system and decommission the aging septic system currently serving the facilities
- Provide the option for the addition of a watertank and access road at a later date