This summer has been an interesting one for me, a person who doesn't usually spend much time outdoors. I was outside FAR MORE than I was inside this summer, and in doing so, was around others who spent more time outdoors than inside. There was a common tread about outdoor spaces and continuous conversations about opening places up for all the world or trying to protect them from the masses.
There's a saying, and I'm not sure how it actually goes, but the idea is this: call a place paradise and then kiss it good-bye. The way the world is right now, people are flocking to outdoor spaces more than they ever have before, and in doing so, I've seen the destruction they've caused to these places they claimed were so beautiful because they couldn't be bothered to "pack it in, pack it out".
We are getting a little off topic, so I'm going to focus on one place in particular that a man thought was so beautiful, he fought his whole life to try and preserve the beauty for his and for future generations to enjoy... Yosemite, the nations oldest national park. Yosemite is known around the world. The iconic rock formations can be recognized anywhere.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant into law in 1864, giving the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees to the state of California. (This happened eight years before the establishment of Yellowstone National Park.) Galen Clark was appointed Yosemite's first Guardian, a position held for most of the next 35 years.
State protection of Yosemite Valley and the giant sequoia grove was not enough for conservationist John Muir. In 1868, Muir walked from San Francisco Bay to the Yosemite Valley. Inspired by the natural beauty he found there, Muir soon started writing about Yosemite in magazines and newspapers that reached audiences across the USA.
Muir also wanted to spread the word about the destruction of Yosemite's ecosystem that he was witnessing. Muir's writing and his own personal passion for Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada helped spur a national conservation movement. Muir even escorted groups of influential people on guided trips into Yosemite and the surrounding Sierra Nevada to present the importance of preserving nature. On one trip to Tuolumne Meadows, Muir together with Robert Underwood, editor the Century Magazine, came up with the idea to launch a campaign to make Yosemite a national park.
Their dream came true in 1890, when the land around Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias became part of Yosemite National Park. Congress also authorized the creation of Sequoia National Park and General Grant National Park (now part of Kings Canyon National Park) to preserve the giant sequoia forests found farther in the Sierra Nevada. The U.S Cavalry assumed jurisdiction of the new national park lands (check out the buffalo soldiers who served in the Sierra Nevada).
Exploitation of the new national park's resources was still rampant, and the Yosemite Valley itself was still under state control. When Muir took President Theodore Roosevelt on a camping trip in Yosemite in 1903, he was able to convince the president of the importance of preserving more of the Sierra Nevada as federal land. Yosemite National Park as we know it today took shape in 1906, when Roosevelt took back control of Yosemite Valley from the state of California and protected the entire region as Yosemite National Park.
There's definitely two+ sides to this story, there are people who feel Yosemite is better off as a controlled national park, others believe it would be better left to the people to decide and there's probably several thoughts somewhere in the middle. If you have an opinion, feel free to leave a comment.