Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Yosemite National Park: Camping Opportunities Decrease

A creature of habit, Brian Ouzounian joins a swallow-like migration each summer to this park's glacier-cleaved valley.

Ouzounian has camped in Yosemite Valley in nearly every one of his 57 years, setting down stakes a week at a time with family and friends at the panoramic junction of the Merced River and Tenaya Creek.

But this family tradition, which used to seem as solid as the granite cliffs, now appears imperiled to Ouzounian. Add us, he says, to the federal list: The endangered campers of Yosemite.

Ouzounian, who petitions and protests, writes letters and attends park meetings, believes he is leading a fight against the extinction of his kind.

After a New Year's flood in 1997 cut a destructive swath through the valley, National Park Service officials abandoned several riverfront campgrounds, justifying it as a way to shrink humanity's footprint and give nature a hand up along the banks of the Merced.

The number of valley campsites fell 43%, from 828 slots to 475 today — and only about 300 of those remaining are the car-camper spots Ouzounian, a general contractor from West Los Angeles, considers akin to Mom and apple pie.
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