Merced River Plan Implementation: Phase II Ahwahnee Meadow Restoration, Remove Tennis Court
The purpose of the project is to continue restoration of the meadow around the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (the historic Ahwahnee Hotel) by removing the associated tennis courts. The courts are located to the southwest of the hotel at the edge of an open meadow, near the border of Ahwahnee Meadow. Following completion of the hotel in 1927, the tennis courts were added in 1928. The courts are no longer managed as a recreational feature and are in poor condition. The adjacent sequoia trees were planted to screen the view of the courts from the hotel.
The tennis courts and associated features (fence, seating area, screening trees, and trails to and from the courts) would be removed. The courts include net support poles, a water fountain, a bench, two terraces, and chain-link perimeter fencing. The landscape screening for the courts includes eight non-native sequoia trees that were planted along the northern perimeter of the courts. The tennis courts and associated surfaces include 14,400 square feet of concrete that would be broken up and removed using an excavator. The concrete along the edge of the courts averages 14 inches thick. Beneath the concrete is a layer of rock/gravel that is typically one inch thick. Both the concrete and base rock would be removed. Any non-native fill underneath the courts will be replaced with native fill and re-graded to establish natural conditions.
Social trails lead to the courts from a wide hotel pathway running from the historic Ahwahnee Hotel to the formal bike path north of the courts. Social trails terminating at the tennis courts (roughly 420 linear feet) would be de-compacted using hand tools and restored to natural conditions.
The sequoia trees, originally planted to screen the courts from view, would be removed. They are not native to the valley and have attained a size that is out of character with adjacent black oaks, which typically grow in or near meadows in Yosemite Valley. The sequoia trees negatively impact the ecosystem though altering water availability and shading native vegetation. Because sequoias require tremendous amounts of water, their surface roots compete for the water which alters native vegetation assemblages in the area. The non-native sequoias presently shade black oak trees and other native vegetation, resulting in competition for light resources. This shading suppresses black oak tree dispersal and growth, and results in less healthy groves of these culturally significant trees. Removal of the sequoias trees will help ensure that the setting of the meadow is restored to its historic appearance, natural hydrologic condition and native vegetation assemblage.
At the time of their installation, the courts were considered "a necessary evil in connection with the hotel operation" by Donald Tressider. After they were developed, the courts were thought of as an impermanent structure that would be easily removed as evidenced by the Park Superintendent's 1930 correspondence with the NPS Director where his rationale for allowing the installation of a golf course included: "construction would not mar the landscape, if at any time its discontinuance became essential for any reason, there would be nothing to efface, as in the case, for example, of the concrete tennis courts." Removal of the courts was first proposed in the park's 1980 Yosemite General Management Plan to, "remove outdoor activities which are not directly related to the natural resource," and removal was also identified in the MRP. The MRP identified that the action would have an adverse effect to the Ahwahnee Developed Area within the Yosemite Valley Historic District, because of the removal of the courts (a contributing structure). The NPS has prepared a draft agreement between the park and the California State Historic Preservation Officer, proposing mitigations to resolve the adverse effect.
To review the draft agreement, click on "Open for Comment" on the left side of the screen.