MOVING VILLAGE WILL HELP PROTECT PARK.
Moving a visitors village in Sequoia National Park will help protect and nurture the stately, towering trees in Giant Forest, the National Park Service said in approving a development plan.
The plan calls for tearing down all but two historic buildings in the sequoia grove and building new lodgings and concessions six miles north. The plan, to be carried out over two decades, also includes installing a shuttle transportation system to reduce traffic through the grove.
Sequoia National Park, located east of Fresno in the southern Sierra Nevada, is home to high-country lakes and 2,000-year-old towering trees.
The park's Giant Forest deserves particular care because it holds some of the world's most spectacular sequoias, including the popular General Sherman Tree, said spokeswoman Malinee Crapsey.
But road excavations, construction and visitor traffic have weakened the trees' shallow root systems. The trees' roots tend to clog water and sewer pipes, forcing crews to cut them.
``There are concerns about what long-term effects that is having on the sequoia trees,'' Crapsey said.
Haphazard planning also has made it difficult to maintain and renovate the village's sagging, aging facilities. The state ordered the park to phase out use of a sewage treatment plant by October 1998.
Crumbling asphalt paths and drooping telephone lines mar the area's beauty and some cabins are falling apart, Crapsey said.
The village also is badly placed since many cabins lie right beneath the trees, she said.
``When the trees die, it's often by falling. They topple,'' Crapsey said. ``And the limbs they're dropping are immense and falling from great heights.''
One limb crushed a gift shop roof last winter, but no one was hurt, she said.
Park officials have found a new spot in a coniferous forest north of Giant Forest called Wuksachi Village that will include lodgings, restaurants and shops.
At Giant Forest Village, all but two buildings will be torn down: the historic Giant Forest Village Market, which will become a visitor center and museum, and a historic rangers' residence.
The Park Service currently is reviewing bids from concessionaires.
The plan also calls for redesigning one parking lot for use at the visitor center and getting rid of several other lots.
Officials hopes to install a summer shuttle that would run from the Wolverton area to main areas like Giant Forest, Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow.
The plan will be installed in phases over the next two decades. As a first step, the park closed Giant Forest Village this winter and reduced its water usage last summer.
The Park Service held 21 public meetings last year before drafting the final plan.