Not Just a Cup of Coffee in Yosemite

Commercialization or Just a Cup of Coffee?

Do we want brand names in OUR national parks? 

Would they diminish what makes OUR parks unique and special?

There's much well-publicized disagreement about how to balance preserving natural resources with visitor services in all our national parks and especially in Yosemite. While many believe Yosemite Valley has been overdeveloped, I will hazard a guess that most visitors would still like to be able to purchase a cup of coffee before or after wandering a meadow, gazing at a waterfall or climbing a trail.


How do we want our coffee served in Yosemite?

Photo: Karl-Shakur

Some people, however, would prefer not to purchase that cup of coffee from Starbucks. To date, some 17,000 people have signed a petition protesting the opening of a Starbucks store in Yosemite Village. The petition at asserts "Multinational corporations have no place in our National Parks" and urges decision makers to "consider local establishments".

The petitioners also ask "Additionally, why was there no transparency or public comment for this momentous decision?". 

Restore Hetch Hetchy has no axe to grind with Starbucks. On the other hand, the Park Service, Yosemite's steward, did not bother to ask the public, Yosemite's owners, if it wanted such a well-known and ubiquitous brand to be marketed in OUR valley. 

Clearly, one coffee shop (in an existing building) is not going to ruin Yosemite. But is Starbucks a harbinger of things to come? Which brands might be next?  It does seem that the public should have a say in the matter.

15 miles to the north of the proposed Starbucks lies the O'Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir - facilities that have eliminated the natural and cultural heritage of Hetch Hetchy Valley. Here, too, the public deserves a say: Do the benefits of restoring Hetch Hetchy Valley outweigh the costs of the water supply and hydropower modifications that would be necessary to make restoration possible?

We think the answer is a definitive "yes". San Francisco, however, continues to avoid discussion of the merits of restoration, so we have taken them to court to force a real conversation. We are waiting for the court to schedule the next hearing in the matter.

The debate about selling coffee in Hetch Hetchy Valley, once it is restored, will be fun.