CALIFORNIA, (KTXL) — Yosemite National Park is known as one of the jewels of the United States National Park system, but its origins of a park start at the state level.
As the gold rush ramped up in the 1850s with vast numbers of people crossing the nation to find their new lives in California’s gold fields, many locals feared for the protection of the state’s natural beauty.
Large-scale mining techniques were defacing the California landscape, along with the construction of growing towns and cities.
In response to this destruction of natural places, Captain Israel Ward Raymond and California U. S. Senator John Conness found a location in 1862 in Yosemite Valley that they wanted set aside for the sole purpose of preservation and public enjoyment.
Conness would present Senate Bill 203, the Yosemite Valley Grant Act, to congress, that would pass through both houses, and was then signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864 that granted the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the state of California.
In September 1864, California Governor Frederick Low accepted the grant making Yosemite the first state park in the nation.
The park would remain in the state’s control for 42 years.
According to the Library of Congress, under the control of the state, the newly created Yosemite Board of Commissioners was confronted with the issue of finding a way to preserve the land while allowing the public to enjoy it.
One of the board members, Frederick Law Olmsted presented a report to the board on Aug. 9, 1865 on how low public traffic into the park would help maintain their preservation goals.
Olmsted had already seen the writing on the walls for the land with the number of visitors the park saw in its first year.
“The slight harm which the few hundred visitors of this year might do, if no care were taken to prevent it, would not be slight, if it should be repeated by millions,” Olmsted said.
His report was meant to be sent to the state legislature, however, the commission did not take kindly to the report and kept it from going to the state legislature.
“Only in the twentieth century has his Preliminary Report come to be widely recognized as one of the most profound and original philosophical statements to emerge from the American conservation movement,” the Library of Congress wrote on Olmsted’s report.
As people flock to the beauty of the park today, many did so then even with the rigors of travel during the time.
One tourist was Mary Cone who traveled by ferry, railroad, stagecoach, wagon and horseback to sit under one of the giant sequoias of the Mariposa Grove.
“The Yosemite valley stands alone, peerless among ten thousand; yet, every year new discoveries are made of the wonders that are shut up in the high Sierras,” Cone wrote in her 1876 book ‘Two years in California’.
However what Olmsted had warned of years earlier became a reality as residents began to notice that the state could not take proper care of the land and demanded that it be turned back over to the federal government, according to the library of congress.
Eventually, Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove were turned back over to the federal government in 1906 to join Yosemite National Park which was created in 1890.