Yosemite employees could be stationed in Lee Vining Canyon

Overcrowded housing in Yosemite National Park could become an economic boon to Lee Vining, if a plan to put park employee housing at the lower end of the canyon at the current forest service site there goes forward.

But that’s only if the project is designed to environmental and aesthetic problems, according to Lee Vining residents who attended a meeting Wednesday night on the subject.

One business owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said the mood of the 30 or so residents at the meeting was “cautiously optimistic.”

But residents also voiced worries about the impacts that the influx of semi-permanent residents could have, including worries about water quality, the viewshed, and more.

However, the business owner said he welcomed the idea if it were done well, stating that it could bring increased dollars to Lee Vining, and a more vibrant mix of residents and visitors to the community in general.

Although the park’s plan is still very much in the preliminary stage and no decisions have been made, the park is going to have to do something different than it is now doing with its employee housing, due to a new requirement to do a Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River plan.

Many of the park’s employee housing units were built decades ago and are very close to the river. Moving to another location in the park is not deemed by the park to be an ideal solution, because it would just mean disturbing even more ground.

The site in lower Lee Vining Canyon is about one mile up the Tioga Pass Road to the west. It already holds the Inyo National Forest employee housing and office.

“What was really differnt about this meeting was that the park made it clear the new housing would stay within the current forest service footprint,” said Lee Vining Supervisor Bob Peters.
Park officials say they are looking at adding enough housing for 20 to 50 more people, if the project goes forward.

To alleviate traffic congestion, the park and the forest service have been talking about doing a “park and ride” option, former Inyo National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch said at meeting a few months ago.
A project like this will be subject to a federal environmental analysis and the public will have many chances to comment on it.