Veterans Commemorate September 11 in Yosemite

Cody Elliot on Royal Arches

Cody Elliot on Royal Arches Photo: Paradox Sports

In the days leading up to September 11, Yosemite proudly hosted some of the most “can-do” people you could ever meet. 15 veterans from across the country came together in Yosemite to challenge themselves, to find community, and to honor those that have served our country during the events of September 11, and beyond. Paradox Sports, an organization dedicated to helping people discover what is possible post-trauma, led the way, supported by partnerships with the National Park Service, Yosemite Search and Rescue (YoSAR) and DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite.

During their visit, different veterans participated in a number of significant ascents and activities in Yosemite, including visits to the summit El Capitan, Royal Arches, Ranger Rock, Sierra Point and many more. Afterward, DJ Skelton, one of the co-founders of Paradox Sports, and himself a disabled veteran, was generous enough to give us some additional insight into these significant ascents.

We’re so excited to have Paradox Sports make the trip to Yosemite! Can you tell us why you chose Yosemite for this special September 11 climb?

Paradox Sports was founded by two rock climbers, Timmy O’Neill and myself. It seemed fitting that we did an event based on climbing/hiking in one of our National Parks. There is really only one park in the US, or world for that matter, that is iconic for rock climbing, Yosemite National Park. Although we provide opportunities for ALL types of disabled Americans, we wanted to dedicate a series of events to disabled veterans. When looking at what date to pick, we thought it was fitting to do an event on the anniversary of Sep 11th, 2001. That day and our Paradox Sports have a lot in common. The tragic events that occurred on Sep 11, 2001 involved some horrific scenes that caused permanent damage to both lives and communities. However, that day, despite the tragedy, fostered an environment that bonded our Nation stronger than it had been in decades. A positive growth occurred in the aftermath of the traumatic wake. Paradox Sports thrives on building communities based upon that post traumatic growth that occurs in our disabled athletes. One can become stronger in spite of the traumatic event rather than the negative outcomes so prevalently found in media stories of disabled and wounded warriors.

Paradox Sports veterans and volunteers met with National Park Service Rangers prior to their ascents.

Paradox Sports veterans and volunteers met with National Park Service Rangers prior to their ascents.

The trip is about so much more than just summiting Half Dome. What are some of the other activities you participated in, for example some of your collaborations with NPS?

Not everyone enjoys climbing. Although climbing tends to be the focus of many of our events, we enjoy helping people set all types of goals in the outdoors. In Yosemite we climbed, hiked several classic hikes (Sentinel Done, Taft Point and Sierra Point), swung off of the Alcove Swing on El Cap, swam in the Merced River, and enjoyed the hidden gems that Yosemite nature has to offer. We also have a couple special events that capitalized on the impressive support from the NPS, DNC, YoSAR [Yosemite Search and Rescue], and local population of the park’s residents. DNC hosted a meet and greet with the park’s leadership and key volunteers to meet our Paradox participants on our first night in the park. It was held at the Curry Lodge Pavilion. It was such a warm welcome to our crew and it really solidified feeling like family…part of a larger community. Our last night, the evening of the 11th, we held a campfire celebration of everyone’s successes at our campground at Yellow Pines. Many of our guides, YNP officials and leaders, DNC employees and friends of Yosemite gathered for an evening of celebration, war stories, and reflection of the days’ trials and tribulations. Paradox Sports also ties in stewardship to our event to respect and honor this incredible National Park. We equip participants with gloves, trash grabbers, and trash bags to pick up litter on every hike and approach to the climbs that we visit.

Are there special logistical considerations that you have to take into account when organizing a trip like this one?

There are many. Approach hikes to the rock walls and descent paths from the summits tend to be more our crux than the climbing itself. In fact, it’s sometimes easier to do the climb for our disabled participants than it is to hike in and out. Heat is also our enemy, as it is for most people who play in the outdoors. Sweaty stumps for our amputee population causes discomfort and hardware issues with the prosthetic limbs. Prosthetic limbs and eyes falling off during a climb also poses a unique threat, not only to our climbers, but those climbing, hiking below. It is also getting harder to cook for this next generation. Everyone seems to have some special diet, gluten free, allergies to fruit and nuts, vegans, people who only eat meat…lol.

Veteran Timpson Smith leading high up on El Capitan Photo: Chris Guinn

Timpson Smith leading on El Capitan
Photo: Chris Guinn

Tell us a little more about what inspired you to co-found Paradox Sports and what the organization’s goals are.

I was severely wounded in Nov 2004. At that time, the hospital scene and rehabilitation environment was pretty grim. I saw these very active young adults, who once played hard in the outdoors, feeling trapped by their severe injuries. I wanted to create an environment that would inspire our wounded warriors and disabled Americans to get excited about playing outdoors again and setting goal-based activities. So many organizations were conducting adaptive sports events, but one would have to cater to the organization’s calendar of events. I wanted to create events that empowered our participants to define life on their own terms again. Paradox Sports would help them learn their new normal in outdoor activities, provide assistance in instruction and adaptive equipment, but most of all, provide unconditional inspiration and support to get back out in this thing called life and explore, grow, push beyond these perceived limitations. Come play once or twice, but then we don’t want to see you again. We want you planning family vacations on your own and going on hikes, climbs, etc with friends on your own timeline, not ours. Hah…not a very good business model, huh?!!!

The goals in Paradox Sports are simple, to build and sustain community-based adaptive communities that foster post-traumatic growth through goal-oriented outdoor activities. By goal-oriented I mean, not just go climb a rock, but to set a goal of climbing a specific route. To not just go kayak, but to kayak down the entire Colorado river at the floor of the Grand Canyon! As we hold ourselves to similar standards, we want our participants to continue to grow, and prosper in life however they wish to define success. Paradox Sports acts as sort of a stepping stone for these disabled individuals. Helping them gain confidence and get connected to the broader communities so they can eventually become self sufficient and independent again, regardless of the severity of their injuries.

Participant Cody Elliott works the crack at Manure Pile

Climbing strong

What is the most rewarding part of working with Paradox Sports?

The most rewarding part of working with Paradox Sports, for me, is watching this idea that I once had many years ago grow life and momentum and move in directions that could never have been conceived in the beginning. Seven years later, every event creates this energy that inspires and ignites the human spirit of all involved and changes people’s lives. It absolutely changed my life and attitude on dealing with traumatic events with permanent lasting effects in my physical and mental state. To see that impact and the enthusiasm of our volunteers, who make accomplishing our mission possible, is emotional for me, the most positive kind of emotion!

What are some of the other events or activities that you have coming up? And how do people get involved with your organization?

Paradox Sports’ has three Paradox Rocks events in October. They are weekend programs with camping and rock climbing at the Shawangunks (aka the “Gunks”) in New York Oct 3-5, Rocktoberfest at Red River Gorge in Kentucky Oct 10-12, and Shelf Road in Colorado Oct 17-19. We also have an ongoing adaptive climbing club we run at three different climbing gyms in the Boulder and Denver areas. There are several ways to stay up to date on our events:

– Sign up for the Paradox Sports monthly newsletter
– Check our calendar
– Follow us on social media: Instagram | Facebook
– Follow our blog
– Check our individual program pages

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The Story of Ranger Gabriel in Yosemite National Park

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in at Yosemite National Park. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in at Yosemite National Park. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Gabriel Lavan-Ying, an eight-year-old from Gainesville Florida suffering from Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, wished to become a national park ranger. With the help of Make-A-Wish Central California, Yosemite National Park endeavored to make Gabriel’s wish come true on Tuesday June 3, 2014. Make-A-Wish Central California grants the wishes of children between the ages of 2½ and 18 who currently have a life-threatening medical condition which is defined as a progressive, degenerative or malignant and has placed the child’s life in jeopardy. Gabriel wanted “to see cool stuff like waterfalls”, and he is a history buff who loves nature. So the rangers at Yosemite National Park put Gabriel through extensive training in order to ensure his success as a national park ranger. Gabriel arrived in Yosemite with his family – mother Tara, father Kon, twin sister Angelica and older brother Dominic – and stayed at Tenaya Lodge just outside the south gate of the park. On Tuesday, Gabriel and his family traveled to Yosemite Valley for his training and swearing-in ceremony.

Ranger Gabriel learns to use the radio before boarding the NPS firetruck.

Ranger Gabriel learns to use the radio before boarding the NPS firetruck. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Gabriel was dispatched to fight a wildland fire with the Yosemite Fire Crew, attended naturalist walks in Cook’s Meadow, was also dispatched to a search and rescue operation involving an injured hiker and assisted the Yosemite medical team in transporting the patient to a rescue helicopter. After Gabriel’s full day of training, he was sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger in a ceremony at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. Approximately 300 people, including Yosemite community members and Yosemite park rangers, witnessed the ceremony in which Gabriel received his badge and credentials. United States Magistrate Judge Michael Seng and Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher presided over the ceremony where Ranger Gabriel also received a flag that was previously flown over Yosemite National Park.

Ranger Gabriel assists with the rescue of an 'injured' hiker.

Ranger Gabriel assists with the rescue of an ‘injured’ hiker. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel assists with transport to the search and rescue helicopter.

Ranger Gabriel assists with transport to the search and rescue helicopter. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger by Judge Michael Seng. photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel is sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger by Judge Michael Seng. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

In addition to the training, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite provided some down time in the form of a pizza party at Degnan’s Loft in Yosemite Village. Ranger Gabriel relaxed at lunch with his family, the NPS rangers involved in his training and the Make-A-Wish crew. After the ceremony, The Ahwahnee kitchen staff celebrated Ranger Gabriel’s new status with a congratulatory cake created by Executive Pastry Chef Paul Padua. On the shaded back patio at The Ahwahnee, Ranger Gabriel wrapped up his first day as a Yosemite park ranger, sharing cake and lemonade with his family and dozens of his new friends. Returning the next day to Yosemite Valley, Ranger Gabriel escorted his family on a rafting trip down the Merced River, ever vigilant for those that may need the assistance or knowledge of a national park ranger.

Chef Paul Padua helps Ranger Gabriel cut the cake at The Ahwahnee. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Chef Paul Padua helps Ranger Gabriel cut the cake at The Ahwahnee. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel and family rafting the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel and family rafting the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel's parking spot in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

Ranger Gabriel’s parking spot in Yosemite Valley. Photo by Michelle Hansen.

 

Not All Bad News: The Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park

Though we think of wildfire in national parks as a bad thing, the fact is that positive opportunities also arise as a result of this natural process in wilderness ecosystems. For instance, Giant Sequoia trees use fire to propagate as the heat from fire causes their cones to open and drop seeds to create a new generation. A program in the state of California has inmates contributing to firefighting efforts, providing them with a chance to give back to society and perhaps learn a trade in order to craft a better future. And in Yosemite National Park, employees had the chance to rescue horses that were stuck in the fire evacuation zone with no transportation, providing a safe haven for non-humans impacted by wildfire. The Rim Fire that originated in Stanislaus National Forest on August 17 has since spread to Yosemite wilderness north and west of the Tioga Road and Highway 120. Though most of the park currently remains unaffected, road closures have affected the visitor experience. With the exception of White Wolf Lodge on Highway 120, all services and lodging remain open and available to park visitors in Yosemite Valley, Wawona and Tuolumne Meadows. Not only are visitors still enjoying their vacations to Yosemite, but horses from the Mather Saddle and Pack Station enjoyed some rest and relaxation too.

Stables JR and Kermit

Stables Manager J.R Gehres and Packer/Shoer Kermit Radoor take a break from doing good deeds.

“I got the call late Wednesday night, and by Thursday morning we were on our way with empty horse trailers and four stable hands to help rescue and transport 40 head of horse from the Mather Corrals, “ said J.R. Gehres, manager of the DNC Parks & Resorts stable operations in Yosemite.  The Mather Saddle and Pack Station is a family run stables that have been in operation since 1929, located just outside the Yosemite National Park boundary. The Rim Fire, currently the 5th largest wildfire in California history, was quickly approaching Mather Station and the owner, Jay Barnes, had been given notice to evacuate the area.  “Jay had no way to get the forty remaining horses out of the corrals and called us for help.  On the way, we came across fire officials and explained the situation; they gave us one hour to collect the horses and get out of there.”  The horses were brought to the Yosemite Valley stables where they were fed, watered, and put up in corrals until Barnes was able to relocate them a few days later.  “Horse people take care of one another, and the Barnes family has a long history with animal packing in Yosemite – how could we say no?” said J.R.  Joe Barnes, Jay’s father and original owner of the Mather Saddle and Pack Station, was a wrangler for Yosemite’s early concessions back in the 1930s.  Though the Rim Fire came very close to the Mather Station, burning the forest and meadow land nearby, the facilities were saved. “Jay Barnes was so grateful DNC was able to help him, he had no one to turn to and DNC came through,“ J.R. noted while packing up the last few horses for their trip home.

stables_horses

Guest horses from the Mather Saddle and Pack Station enjoying some hay at the Yosemite Valley Stables.

Thanks to Vicky McMichael for reporting on this story.

Yosemite Parking under the MRP

A Range of Alternatives for the Merced River Plan

A Range of Alternatives for the Merced River Plan

On peak days in Yosemite Valley, traffic and parking can be a challenge. The Merced River Plan outlines a few options to improve parking and traffic flow to give people a better experience when they visit.
Under Preferred Alternative 5, the National Park Service proposes many strategies including:

  • Increase day-use parking spaces in Yosemite Valley (+5%).
  • Improve traffic circulation by building underpasses and roundabouts in key locations like day-use parking and across from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls.
  • Accommodate approximately 19,900 visitors per day in East Yosemite Valley, compared to current peak visitation of about 20,900.
  • Continue to manage overnight-use capacity through wilderness permits and reservation systems for lodging and camping.
  • Manage day-use capacity for East Yosemite Valley through traffic diversions and monitoring.
  • Create an additional parking area in the west end of Yosemite Valley to accommodate overflow traffic.
  • Provide additional public transit and free shuttle bus services, with routes extending further west to include locations like Bridalveil and the new proposed parking area.

What do you think?

Submit a comment to the National Park Service. The comment period is open until April 18, 2013. Your comments matter. Public input has strongly helped to shape the draft plan, and it’s important for everyone to continue to provide feedback for the next phase as planners develop a final plan. Learn more about the Merced River Plan.

Yosemite Concessionaire Receives 2012 Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award

Representatives of DNC accepted the 2012 Business of the Year Award

Representatives of DNC accepted the 2012 Business of the Year Award

On January 24, a group of Delaware North Companies (DNC) Parks & Resorts at Yosemite employees traveled to the Mariposa County Fairgrounds to accept the 2012 “Business of the Year” Award from the Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce. The western-themed awards dinner recognized individuals and organizations that made a big impact on the community of Mariposa in the past year.

DNC was specially recognized for the following efforts:

  • Offering employment opportunities to those who lost their jobs due to the fire at the Pizza Factory in May 2012
  • Dedication to local, sustainable and healthy food options in Yosemite
  • Recycling program: In the past 10 years, DNC has recycled 6,946 tons of material and another 8,517 tons of material has been diverted from landfills through composting and reuse. In 2010, DNC collected 250 tons of organic waste and over 300 tons in 2011
  • GreenPath® – DNC’s award-winning environmental management system that was ISO certified in 2001
  • Professional and caring way DNC reacted to difficult situations

“It is an honor to be recognized by the Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce as Business of the Year,” said DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite President Dan Jensen. “Part of our core mission is to provide stewardship and hospitality in special places, and this award is an honor and tribute to our dedicated associates for providing memorable Yosemite experiences for millions of visitors each year.”

The Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce also recognized Ron Iudice from the California Mining and Mineral Museum as Businessman of the Year. Karen Cutter of Ladybug Embroidery was named Businesswoman of the Year and the organization, SCOPE (Sheriff’s Community-Organized Policing Effort) was recognized as Volunteer of the Year for all of their service, from managing parade-day traffic to family safety programs.

Great Way to Learn More About Merced and Tuolumne River Plans

Yosemite Housekeeping Camp Bridge

Housekeeping Camp bridge in snow
Photo: Theresa Ho

Have you been paying attention to the sweeping changes being proposed for Yosemite National Park? The park has set up some webinar and public meeting times to help you understand what is being proposed. Now is the time to voice your opinions on the park’s ideas for traffic and parking, lodging options, number of campsites, and services like the availability of bike or rafting rentals!

The National Park Service has released alternatives for two new plans for Yosemite. One of these plans, the Tuolumne River Plan (TRP), contains proposed changes for the Tuolumne high country, and the other, the Merced River Plan (MRP), proposes several options for Yosemite Valley and the Merced River.

To help you understand the proposed plans, the Park Service has made both documents available online (MRP and TRP), along with summaries and charts to help you understand what is going on. You can also attend one of a series of webinars and public meetings (MRP and TRP) to help give you an overview of the plans and answer any questions you might have.

You have only until March 18 to comment on the TRP, and the MRP public comment period closes after April 18, 2013.

You can read the official NPS press release here.

Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan

Half Dome Cables

Half Dome Cables

NPS announced today that an official Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan has been signed. Those who have been keeping up with the evolving policies surrounding the day use permits for the hike to Half Dome summit won’t find anything shocking here although a few of the numbers have changed slightly in response to public comments and feedback.

The hike to the summit of Half Dome, possibly the most recognizable and iconic of Yosemite’s many majestic features, draws people from around the world, and has become increasingly popular in recent years, necessitating a management plan to preserve the wilderness character of the hike and improve safety for hikers.

300 permits will be issued each day – 225 to day hikers and 75 to overnight backpackers who plan to summit Half Dome as part of a longer trip, a decrease compared to previous years. These permits will continue to be distributed in two lotteries through Recreation.gov. The preseason lottery runs from March 1 – March 31, with lottery winners notified on April 15, 2013.

In previous years, overnight backpackers were able to receive day use permits with their overnight wilderness permits. Now, they will also need to apply for permits for the Half Dome summit.

Approximately 50 permits will also be available daily during the hiking season two days before the hiking day. (That means that to hike on a Saturday, you’d apply for the daily lottery on Thursday between midnight and 1pm PT, and get notification Thursday night.)

Find more detailed information on the permits and how to apply on the NPS site. You can read the full Park Service announcement below.

Yosemite National Park Announces the New Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan

Yosemite National Park announces the signing of the Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). This document records the decision of Yosemite National Park to adopt a new day-use permit program for the Half Dome Trail which includes continued use of the Half Dome cables. Hiking to the top of Half Dome is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park. The iconic granite monolith, at 8,842 feet above sea level, attracts people from all over the world who attempt to climb to the summit. Most visitors ascend Half Dome via the cables, which are typically in place from mid-May through mid-October.

In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act, creating the National Wilderness Preservation System. In 1984, approximately 95% of Yosemite National Park, including Half Dome and the Half Dome Trail, was designated as Wilderness through the California Wilderness Act of 1984. The Selected Action reduces congestion and improves conditions for public safety, while providing a range of wilderness experiences. Under the Selected Action, Yosemite National Park will retain the cable system and implement day-use limits through a permit system, managing for a target of 300 people on the Half Dome Trail per day.

The Selected Action is generally the same as the Preferred Alternative in the Environmental Assessment (EA) that was released for public review in January 2012. The park received a total of 1,649 comment letters during the 52-day public comment period. A wide range of comments were received: some urging the park to reconsider installing a third cable, some supporting the Preferred Alternative, and others supporting the removal of the cables altogether. Commenters sought clarification on visitor use studies, safety measures, commercial use, wilderness character, and permit allocation. There are some clarifications and corrections to the EA based on public comment, mainly in the area of commercial use. These corrections are included in an Errata to the EA.

Applications for permits to hike the trail are available from March 1 through March 31, 2013. The park will allocate permits through a preseason lottery, a two-day in advance lottery, and as part of the Wilderness Permit process. Details regarding the lotteries and the wilderness process can be found at the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/hdpermits.htm. The lottery will be conducted through http://www.recreation.gov.

The FONSI and errata sheets completing the decision-making process are available online at: http://www.nps.gov/yose/parkmgmt/hdp_information.htm. Requests for hardcopies or CD-ROMs of the FONSI, available on a limited basis, can be submitted to: Superintendent, Yosemite National Park, and Attn: Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan, P.O. Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389.

Yosemite National Park Facelift Yields Over 20,000 Pounds of Trash

Approximately 1,150 Yosemite Facelift volunteers collected approximately 5,000 pounds of litter and 15,000 pounds of concrete, asphalt, and other large trash, at the ninth annual Yosemite Facelift event in Yosemite National Park.  Dozens of miles of roadway, riverbed, and trails were cleaned.  The annual event was held in the park from Tuesday, September 25 through Sunday, September 30, 2012.

Over the past eight years, Facelift volunteers have made a huge impact on significantly eliminating small trash throughout Yosemite National Park. The areas that have been regularly cleaned during each past event have
yielded less and less small trash.  Therefore, this year, Facelift volunteers were able to focus on a number of large-scale special projects throughout the event.

“The annual Yosemite Facelift is an event we treasure, and look forward to each year.  Since Facelift began, we have noticed that there is incrementally less litter accumulated each year.  We feel this is a direct result of the park’s educational program and efforts through Facelift and we are extremely proud of this,” remarked Don Neubacher, Yosemite National Park Superintendent.

One of the special projects Facelift volunteers focused on was cleaning trash and other items from the base of the Half Dome Cables and along the side of the dome where the cables are installed.  Throughout the year, hikers climbing the cables accidentally drop hundreds of water bottles, shoes, cameras, and other small items.  Many of these items cannot safely be recovered and remain on the side of the dome.  Facelift volunteers skilled in technical rope and high angle skills were able to successfully collect hundreds of pounds of small trash from this hard to reach area.

Another special project Facelift volunteers were able to complete included picking up trash that had accumulated along the steep cliffs adjacent to the Tunnel View vista in Yosemite Valley.  Throughout the year, hundreds of pounds of trash and other items have collected along steep cliff sides lining the famous view of Yosemite Valley.  Much of this trash could not be removed without protective gear due to the steep angle of the cliffs. Facelift volunteers successfully removed all of the trash along a quarter mile stretch at Tunnel View.

Other special projects included removing old culverts from Lower Rivers Campground in Yosemite Valley, cleaning up at the base of popular rock climbing routes throughout the park, assisting in removing invasive plants throughout the park, and removing old telephone wires in Yosemite Valley.

Missing Employee Located Alive

Yosemite Search and Rescue located missing employee, Jessica Garcia, in the early afternoon on October 9 after she had been missing for two days. Although injured, Garcia is alive, and has been transported to a local hospital for medical evaluation. She was found less than two miles up the South Fork of the Merced River in the southern portion of the park near Wawona where she was scheduled to begin working on Sunday.

Approximately 50 people were involved in the Search and Rescue operation, including six dog teams, 15 ground searchers, a mounted Park Ranger, a helicopter crew and many others. Many thanks to all of the people who contributed to this happy ending.

Yosemite Youth Program Leads to Prestigious Award for Yosemite Park Ranger

Shauna Potocky, a Park Ranger at Yosemite National Park was recently awarded the Pacific West Region 2012 Freeman Tilden Award for her work in creating the Gateway Expressions Student Art and Poetry Contest. This new program, is one of several youth programs being offered in direct partnership with NPS.

Each year the Freeman Tilden Award recognizes a National Park Service (NPS) ranger for developing, revitalizing or delivering a particularly effective and creative interpretive or education program. The Gateway Expressions Student Art and Poetry Contest not only provides a program for youth from the local gateway communities surrounding the park to develop and express their own personal connections to the park, but also strengthens the partnership between the many park partners that were involved in the program. She will represent the Pacific West Region of the NPS in the National Freeman Tilden Award competition. The overall winner will be announced during the National Association of Interpretation Conference to be held in mid-November in Hampton, Virginia.

“Gateway Expressions gives people an opportunity to see the remarkable nature of Yosemite through the eyes of today’s youth. We see what they value, what they connect to and how important it is to them. It is the perfect reminder for us to continue to work towards protecting nature in Yosemite and in the communities we call home,” Potocky remarked.

Looking for some activities so that your children will have fun engaging with and exploring Yosemite? You might be interested in some of the kid-friendly Yosemite programs listed on our website, like Wee Wild Ones, Junior Ranger Programs, or Storytime.