Yosemite National Park this year might reach the nerve-wracking plateau of 4 million visitors. In the 1990s that number meant summer gridlock, gate closures and bad publicity.
Yet last summer – the park's busiest since 1996 – there were no gate closures or three-hour waits to get into paradise. The National Park Service has gotten serious about managing crowds at one of America's favorite parks.
The effort is not just about providing stress relief on busy summer days. The Park Service wants to cure a legal problem that has slowed Yosemite planning and $100 million in projects for a decade.
Better traffic management will give officials a more detailed understanding of when and where crowds peak. It's essential information for creating an acceptable plan to protect the Merced River, the main river in popular Yosemite Valley.
Federal courts consistently rejected previous plans over the last 10 years because they lacked a clear visitor limit.
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