NATURE: Yosemite National Park


THE Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, at the heart of Califor­nia’s Yosemite National Park, is home to 500 of the towering trees – many at least 2,000 years old, having sprouted around the time of Jesus Christ. One of the world’s 65 remain­ing natural sequoia groves, and the largest in Yosemite, Maripo­sa Grove reopened in June, three years after the start of a $40 mil­lion restoration project to pro­tect the ancient giants for future generations. The oldest sequoias can live for more than 3,000 years, their bark resisting insect attacks and helping them survive countless wildfires over the millennia. Gone are the gift shop, suffo­cating fumes from a chugging diesel tram and 115 spaces of parking lot asphalt that once cluttered the site, a major tourist destination four hours’ drive from San Francisco. Only a small parking lot remains alongside new restrooms. The removal of asphalt helps protect the trees’ shallow root system from compaction, allows water to flow naturally again, and reduces damaging air pollution from excess vehicles. Four miles of new trails and bridges have been constructed. A new boardwalk through part of the grove is elevated over sen­sitive areas and facilitates handi­capped access to view the trees.