YOSEMITE, Calif. – With Yosemite National Park’s granite monoliths as a backdrop, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today announced the completion of a much-needed makeover to the historic Tunnel View Overlook, the first project of the National Park Service Centennial Initiative.
“The rededication of this famous site shows that we can rise to the challenge of reinvigorating our national parks with stunning results,” Kempthorne said. “It is our hope that this project and vistas like this will inspire support and interest in preserving our national parks into the next century.”
Hundreds attended the ceremony marking completion of the overlook, a place photographed by thousands daily for its expansive views of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome. The celebration was modeled after the dedication marking the opening of the site in 1933 with vintage automobiles, an honor guard and a blessing by American Indians.
“Tunnel View is 75 years-old this year and it has never looked better,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Mike Tollefson. “We’re proud to be able to partner with organizations like The Yosemite Fund to rehabilitate this iconic view to the benefit of all park visitors. It’s a fitting way to celebrate the approaching 100th anniversary of the National Park Service and the 20th anniversary of The Yosemite Fund.”
Funding for the $3.3 million restoration came from the nonprofit Yosemite Fund, which contributed $1.8 million, and $1.5 million from the National Park Service. The Tunnel View Overlook Rehabilitation Project features a larger and safer viewing area, wheelchair accessibility, educational exhibits, a rebuilt trailhead, revamped parking areas, clearer circulation patterns for vehicles and pedestrians, and improved drainage. These issues were addressed while maintaining vistas and the naturalistic rustic character and integrity of this historic site.
“This view is one of nature’s extraordinary creations and is familiar to people around the world,” said Bob Hansen, president of The Yosemite Fund. “The improvements reestablish the promise of inspiration to those who visit Tunnel View. We’re ecstatic that Tunnel View was the first project to be completed as part of the Centennial Challenge and are pleased to partner with the National Park Service to improve this historic site.”
The National Park Centennial Initiative, proposed by President Bush and Secretary Kempthorne two years ago at Yellowstone National Park, calls for a partnership with the American people to enhance the National Park System in time for its 100th anniversary in 2016. The 10-year initiative proposes increased annual funding for park operations and a Presidential Centennial Challenge: up to $100 million a year in federal funds would match $100 million a year in philanthropic donations to the National Park Service.
“The first round of 2008 Centennial projects is helping parks of all shapes and sizes – from big, iconic parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone, to smaller parks like Rock Creek Park just a few miles from the Capitol,” Kempthorne noted. “These projects will rebuild trails, restore infrastructure, and preserve natural, cultural and historical resources. They will help reconnect children to the parks and to nature. They will bring new, cutting edge technology to the parks to enhance the visitor experience.”
“It’s a great day for the National Park Service and a great day for Yosemite National Park,” said NPS Director Mary A. Bomar. “With the nearly $25 million Congress has appropriated and nearly $27 million of matching commitments from our park partners, the Centennial Initiative today moves onto the landscape and into people’s lives.”
“This is how we put our Centennial goals on the ground and it’s quite a beginning,” Bomar said. “We have 110 programs and projects involving more than 130 individual, public and non-profit partners benefitting 76 national parks in 38 states and the District of Columbia.”
Other 2008 Centennial Challenge programs and projects for Yosemite include:
Junior Ranger Program at Happy Isles: This project will firmly establish a base for Junior Ranger program operations at the Happy Isles Nature Center by upgrading exhibits, providing an expanded curriculum of Junior Ranger programs, and increasing staffing and volunteers.
Connect Underserved Youth to Parks and Evaluate Success: This multi-park project will provide diversity scholarships to underserved youth, and an evaluation of the project’s success for three parks: Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Olympic National Park. This educational program will build on a strong private partnership with Yosemite National Institute’s campus affiliates, Yosemite Institute, Headlands Institute, and Olympic Park Institute.
Nine national parks across the country, including Yosemite, will embark on a national effort to discover and catalog all plant and animal life in the national parks – technically speaking, they will conduct all taxa biologic inventories.
Yosemite’s Tunnel View Overlook, located next to Wawona Road at the east portal of the Wawona Tunnel, was constructed during an era that heralded a boom in design and development throughout the National Park Service, and helped initiate the Service’s “rustic” design style. Because of their exemplary park service rustic design, Wawona Tunnel and Tunnel View are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The site remains one of the most popular scenic overlooks in Yosemite National Park. Tour buses, tram tours, and single-family vehicles bring as many as 7,000 people to the site each day during the height of the visitor season.
For a complete list of the 2008 National Park Service Centennial Challenge projects and programs, please visit www.nps.gov/2016.