2012-07-26 / Front Page

Yosemite development plan loses in court

A federal appeals court has sided with environmentalists and ruled that a property owner

 cannot build a new road into Yosemite National Park.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Solvang developer Lewis Geyser does not have the rights to two stage-coach-era dirt roads connecting his property to Yosemite. Geyser wanted to build a resort and develop the roads to let visitors enter the Park directly.

"We're certainly very pleased," said George Torgun, an attorney for Earthjustice, a law firm that represented environmentalists in this case. "Yosemite is a national treasure. It's a place we don't want to see more roads constructed."  

The roads at issue, Old Coulterville Road and Crane Flat Road, go roughly from the town of Coulterville in Mariposa County through Geyser's 83-acre Hazel Green property. The roads currently pass very close to Highway 120 near Crane Flat in Yosemite National Park.

The most direct route from the Hazel Green property is a stretch of restored forest inside Park boundaries. There are no roads directly connecting the property to Big Oak Flat Road, but a Park entrance exists at the location--closed by a locked gate.

Geyser wanted Yosemite to give him an easement over the quarter-mile section of Park property between his land and Highway 120. But the Park refused, leading to a 2007 lawsuit with the support of Mariposa County claiming he had a legal right to the now-unused dirt roads, under various easement laws.

U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger ruled against Geyser in 2010, holding that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the roads are indirect and likely would be more expensive to develop.

Geyer and his attorney did not respond to calls on Aug. 31 asking for comment.

This report is compiled from The Associated Press and MARIPOSA GAZETTE staff accounts. Photo credit: Yosemite Online.

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