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Yosemite campgrounds sliding away with floodwaters

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Yosemite campgrounds sliding away with floodwaters

Postby ERIC » Mon Aug 20, 2007 3:11 pm

Yosemite campgrounds sliding away with floodwaters

By Eric Bailey, Los Angeles Times
Article Last Updated: 08/19/2007 06:44:50 AM PDT


ACREATURE 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.

He lives for those days and the memories of them. Morning hikes to the valley rim. Inner-tube afternoons on the river. Nights in a sleeping bag, under the stars. First light striking Glacier Point. Sizzling bacon, chirping birds and the burbling river play a symphony to his soul.

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.

People may still come in RVs and SUVs loaded with tents and sleeping bags and Coleman stoves, but the opportunities for camping — the bargain-basement entree in Yosemite Valley — have been in decline over the last decade.

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 percent, 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.

Just count the dearly departed, he says. Upper River Campground — gone. Lower River Campground — gone. Lower Pines Campground — shrunk roughly by half. The group campground
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