Rock threat danger closes part of Yosemite lodging

By: AP
By: AP

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- An unstable cliff prompted officials Friday to permanently close some cabins in a popular Yosemite National Park lodge complex that has a long history of rockslides.

National Park Service officials said 233 cabins in family friendly Curry Village will close permanently. That's about one-third of the units available in the complex that also includes stores and restaurants run by an outside company.

About half of the 618 cabins at the village have been off-limits since a rockfall Oct. 8.

An Associated Press story this week said federal geologists have warned for at least a decade that the granite face of Glacier Point above the village was dangerous. Despite two deaths and an increase in the frequency and severity of the rockfalls since 1996, park officials had been reluctant to act.

In the most recent incident last month, more than 150 youngsters were on field trips when the equivalent of 570 dump trucks of rock hit 17 cabins where they were staying and flattened one at 6:55 a.m. Most of the children were out of the cabins at the time and no one was seriously injured.

"The NPS can no longer treat each rockfall as an isolated incident," the park service said in a statement Friday. "Instead, we must look at the area comprehensively and recognize that geologic processes that have shaped Yosemite Valley since the last glaciers receded will continue to result in rockfall."

The closure will affect 157,500 overnight guests per year, said Scott Gediman, a parks spokesman. Officials will remove the cabins, fence off the area and install educational exhibits explaining why the area was closed and the history of rockfalls.

Since 1999, 20 of the structures at Curry Village have been directly hit by boulders and many more have been damaged by flying rocks. Since 1857, at least 535 rockfalls in the one-by-seven-mile area known as Yosemite Valley have killed 14 people and injured 62, more than at any other national park.

Yosemite Valley is easily the most collapse-prone place in a park that receives over 3 million visitors a year.

"I'm glad nobody else had to die," said attorney Dugan Barr, who is suing Yosemite for wrongful death on behalf of the family of rock climber Peter Terbush.

Terbush was killed in 1999 in a rockfall behind Curry Village. Barr has been frustrated that Yosemite does not warn Curry Village visitors of potential rockfall danger.

"If they'd just put up a sign on a bulletin board there, put up a piece of paper that says we've had rockfalls of these sizes on these dates, then they can let people make up their own minds about whether they want to go up there."

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