Ahwahnee Tennis Court Removal Project

Ahwahnee tennis courts with players in 1970
Tennis courts shown here in 1970.


The Ahwahnee was designed and constructed between 1925 and 1927. The Ahwahnee tennis courts were built in 1928 soon after the completion of the hotel. The concessioner at the time, Yosemite Park and Curry Company (YP&C Co.) began to promote active recreational opportunities despite resistance from the National Park Service. The concessioner believed that in order to compete with premier resorts such as Lake Tahoe, they had to build entertainment and recreational facilities. Soon after the tennis courts were built, it was decided to shield them, so screening vegetation consisting of giant sequoias and redbud were planted shortly thereafter.

The site for the hotel was initially chosen for its spectacular views, including those of Yosemite Falls. Its location, in a secluded meadow in eastern Yosemite Valley, was also at a distance from the other developed areas. When the hotel opened, the Olmsted brothers developed and submitted a landscape plan for the preservation and enhancement of its existing vegetation and surroundings.

Controversial from the start, the tennis courts were built in the western corner of the grounds. However, they were identified as problematic by Olmsted, as they were highly visible from the nearby wildflower preserve at the hotel. Olmsted suggested "that completely effective screening of these back-stops by foliage at a reasonably early date is an essential part of the plan." A row of trees, including the existing sequoias, were subsequently planted in the meadow to screen the tennis courts from the hotel’s view. Although sequoias are native to Yosemite National Park, they do not occur naturally at the lower elevations and are considered to be non-native within Yosemite Valley.

At the time of their installation, the courts were considered “a necessary evil in connection with the hotel operation” by Donald Tressider, President of Yosemite Park and Curry Company at the time. Even after they were developed, the tennis courts were thought of as a structure that would be easily removed and was probably not permanent. Fast-forward 52 years.


Ahwahnee Tennis Courts: 1930 and Today

Ahwahnee tennis courts with a few players in 1930, clear view to Yosemite Falls. Ahwahnee tennis courts with a few players in 1930, clear view to Yosemite Falls.

Left image
Ahwahnee tennis courts in 1930

Right image
Current view of Ahwahnee tennis courts looking toward Yosemite Falls


Restoration of Ahwahnee Meadow

The National Park Service first proposed removing the tennis courts in Yosemite's 1980 General Management Plan as part of an objective to "remove outdoor activities which are not directly related to the natural resource." Since then, they have been largely abandoned and are in poor condition. The tennis courts are no longer managed as a recreational feature. By the 1980s, the nine-hole golf course at The Ahwahnee had already reverted back to natural vegetation for the most part and the General Management Plan identified removal of the remaining features of that facility as well.

The 2014 Merced Wild and Scenic River Comprehensive Management Plan calls for ecological restoration in Yosemite Valley. Restoration work has been ongoing in Ahwahnee Meadow and the associated hotel area since 2016. In 2016, National Park Service restoration crews filled an abandoned drainage ditch in the meadow and began obliteration of the old road on the east side of the meadow. In 2017, crews finished restoration of the old road and removed the sand pits from the former Ahwahnee golf course. In 2018, crews removed fill, recontoured, and sowed native seed at the southwest corner of Ahwahnee Meadow to restore wetland conditions.

Restoration work related to this project of removing the tennis courts will:

  • Remove The Ahwahnee tennis courts and associated features (fence, seating area, etc). The tennis courts and associated surfaces include 14,400 square feet of concrete that will be broken up and removed using an excavator. Any non-native fill underneath the courts will be replaced with native fill and re-graded to establish natural conditions.
  • Remove the seven giant sequoias originally planted to screen the courts from view. These trees have attained a size that is out of character with adjacent black oaks that typically grow in or near meadows in Yosemite Valley. The existing non-native giant sequoias negatively impact the ecosystem by altering water availability and shading native vegetation. Because mature sequoias require tremendous amounts of water (often growing near streams to satisfy this need), they have a profound ability to impact nearby oaks. Their surface roots currently compete for the water, which alters native vegetation in the area. Furthermore, being much taller than native trees in this area, the sequoias shade black oak trees and other native vegetation, resulting in competition for light. This shading suppresses black oak tree dispersal and growth, and results in less healthy groves of these culturally significant trees. Removal of the sequoias will help ensure that the site is restored to its natural hydrologic condition, native vegetation, and use as a traditional-use plant gathering area.
  • Remove additional screening vegetation including redbud and California grape from the California black oak woodland

  • Establish native vegetation typical of California black oak woodland by planting shrubs and sowing seed

Ultimately, the restored meadow will evoke the original open appearance for the area as envisioned by the Olmsted brothers in the 1920s.

The park's traditionally associated American Indian tribes support this project as it promotes the growth and recovery of black oak woodland, which is a cultrually significant resource and traditional food source.


  • Tree and concrete removal began in early July 2019 and continued through the end of August.
  • Re-vegetation of the area took place in the fall of 2019.

Last updated: May 9, 2023

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