Updated: Aug 10
Earlier this week, four advocacy organizations focused their spotlights on the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River and our surrounding national forests to highlight the challenges faced and economic potential of outdoor recreation along the Highway 120 corridor. The invitation-only two-day event was organized by Outdoor Alliance California, American Whitewater, Tuolumne River Trust, and Tuolumne River Outfitters and began on Tuesday morning with a run down the “T” for key influencers. Chamber members Sierra Mac River Trips and OARS joined two other Tuolumne River permit holders to take four rafts through the world-class rapids, a first-time experience for several participants.
Rafters and other arriving Roundtable guests were greeted with a Happy Hour hosted by the Yosemite Chamber of Commerce at the Groveland Hotel. Fittingly, Wednesday morning’s Roundtable was held as an open-air forum in Mary Laveroni Park, giving voice to three dozen influencers and local and regional stakeholders in our area’s outdoor recreation-based economy.
The use and management of our most precious resources requires collaboration between a broad group of community members, outfitters, land managers, and partners. The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable provided a chance for our local business community who serve the adventure-seeking public to participate in discussing the challenges and priorities for improving access along the Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River, which powers so much more than our tourism-based economy.
The supply-and-demand chain for water is as long as the “T” itself, starting at its source in the high Sierra to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (drinking water to San Francisco and Groveland), through the Cherry Lake powerhouse, whose pulses generate both power and world-class whitewater rafting. Once through Don Pedro Reservoir, it waters Central Valley crops and keeps the population hydrated, eventually becoming a heartbreaking surplus that escapes to the sea, unused for lack of more, higher-capacity reservoirs. All along the way, federal, state, county, and regional agencies and countless nonprofits are involved at every touchpoint, dealing with forest management, public access, wildfire prevention, environmental stewardship, and the preservation of outdoor spaces that enrich human life.
Too many cooks in the kitchen? Not necessarily. The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable was an eye-opening gathering of stakeholders with passion for a common cause: to preserve and improve access to, and use, of our public forests and waterways.
California’s congressional district 5 spans eight counties covering the western slope of the Sierra from Kings Canyon in the south to just north of Highway 50 around El Dorado Hills, and includes both Turlock and Modesto, whose riparian rights to the Tuolumne River water date back to 1867. The congressman’s team sits at the fulcrum of this delicate balance where water is essential to all of his constituents for different, often conflicting reasons
Congressman McClintock was joined by his Chief of Staff and district-based team to hear from the Outdoor Recreation stakeholders and those agencies whose mission it is to help enable public access to all we have to offer in our adventure playground. On the table was everything from returning to effective forest management practices of the 1960’s to emergency road repairs and debris management after devastating winter storms washed away access roads and pushed more than a hundred acres of timber, brush, and other debris down the Tuolumne and into Don Pedro.
Many thanks to Rajvi Shah and Amar Alapati, new owners of the Groveland Hotel, for bringing Chef Rick and extra staff in on a Tuesday evening to host Outdoor Recreation Roundtable guests. Rajvi and Amar went out of their way to make sure everyone felt welcome, serving up a delicious charcuterie spread, and offering a full menu which brought rave reviews from more than a dozen hungry participants after a thrilling day on the river.
It's said that a rising tide floats all boats. Finding more ways to collaborate, partner with, and support our public servants, agencies, and other like-minded stakeholders involved in providing safe and accessible outdoor recreation will benefit all.