Friday, February 24, 2012

Critical Information regarding Sequoia National Forest in the Hume Lake District area and Kings Canyon National Park, eastern side known as Cedar Grove. The Park Service would like to shut down Scenic Hwy 180 through the National Forest and through the most scenic sections of Kings Canyon. There proposal is to delay opening the seasonal highway until May 4th, instead of the traditional "Last Friday in April". Then they want to close the Highway on October 29, a full two weeks early. There has been no reason for this communicated to us here at Boyden Cavern. It appears to be a random attempt to further restrict the public from our National Lands. Below is a letter written and emailed to Senator Tom Berryhill and Fresno County District 5 Supervisor Debbie Poochigian who represents that particular area of Fresno County. Feel free to call any the numbers listed in the letter and ask why? Why close down highways? Why close down a business (unemployment goes up...In this economy!!) Why restrict access to public lands which of course is paid for by tax payers!!! If the Park Service sites "Budget" let's remind them there has been a poor economy for several years now, maybe they should have made those budget cuts back then, however, apparently the Park Service felt that Cedar Grove in the lower Kings Canyon National Park region was not a budget issue then...So why is it NOW.

Stephen Fairchild, Owner

My name is Stephen Fairchild. I am owner of the concession at Boyden Cavern. I am writing to you today about a very urgent matter. I am requesting your swift intervention into a decision that will be made in the next couple of days that will shorten the seasonal public access to Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest and Boyden Cavern by 3 weeks this 2012 season.

Boyden Cavern is located on Highway 180, which is a State Scenic Highway. Boyden Cavern has a unique geographical distinction of being located on this highway sandwiched between two sections of Kings Canyon National Park. To the West is Grants Grove and to the East is Cedar Grove with Sequoia National Forest, Sequoia National Monument and Boyden Cavern located in the middle.

The National Parks Service is requesting that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) delay the road opening for an extra week this spring and close it early on October 29th rather than Mid-November. The reason for this has not been explained to me.

The concession to Boyden Cavern has been in my family for over 35 years and annual the opening of Highway 180 has consistently been scheduled for the last Friday in April and the closing a day or two after Veteran’s Day. Road conditions remain safe and clear and passable through the Thanksgiving Holiday so if anything, the season should be extended rather than shortened.

The proposed open date is May 4th (rather than April 27th).
The proposed close date is October 29th (rather than November 15th).

Historically, the summer season is an average of 23 weeks long. This proposed 3 week closure is a 13% reduction in public access to Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest and Boyden Cavern. This substantial decrease in operational days will cut revenue for the Cave and will result in a loss of wage earning opportunities for my employees, loss of sales tax revenue for the State of California and is a terrible disservice to public. School Districts have already made reservations with Boyden Cavern the first weekend in May. Who knows how many international travelers will come thousands of miles to see a “road closed” sign instead of the deepest canyon in the United States.

I believe that there are alternative solutions that would satisfy whatever motivation the Parks Service has for this request and will protect the public interests. There are several existing gates on Highway 180. My suggestions are:
1). Close only the gate at the boundary between Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park where State Highway 180 ends.
2). Install a gate at the bridge just past Boyden Cavern and close only that gate, effectively closing the last 16 miles of Highway 180 and leaving the best portion of Sequoia National Forest available to the public which is geographically located in the Canyon.
2). b. Improve public access by leaving the road open to this new gate through the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Please make reference to California Streets and Highways Code Section 124 and code 942.5

I have been in contact with the following key players:
Caltrans: Eric Woods @ 559-734-1388

USFS Hume Lake District Ranger: John Exline @ 559-338-2251

USPS Kings Canyon National Park District Ranger: Ned Kelleher @ 559-565-4330

Thank you very much for your assistance in this urgent matter.


Stephen Fairchild, Owner
Boyden Cavern

Phone: 559-797-8533