Yosemite National Park got a little bigger this month, adding about 400 acres of wetlands and meadow habitat to its western boundary following a donation from a San Francisco–based conservation group.
The area, known as Ackerson Meadow, represents the largest expansion of the park in 58 years.
The nonprofit, The Trust for Public Land, purchased the land from private owners for $2.3 million earlier this year and donated the estate to the park last week. The Yosemite Conservancy, which provides grants to the park in order to preserve it, also was involved in the transfer.
In the scheme of things at Yosemite, the addition is microscopic—a New York Times article said it contributes less than two-thirds of a square mile to a park that covers 1,169 square miles in all.
Still, according to an article on CNN, the new addition includes forests and meadows that blossom with a variety of wildflowers. It's also home to several types of wildlife, including songbirds and black bears. A mile of Ackerson Creek traverses the property before flowing into the scenic South Fork of the Tuolumne River.
The new area sits just minutes from the national park’s Big Oak Flat entrance. Its ecosystem is unique to higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada because of the consistent presence of water; during the park’s 2013 rim fire, many of the park’s other wildlife relocated temporarily to the meadow for that reason.
What’s more, meadow space in the Sierra Nevada mountains is hard to come by.
“At just 3 percent of Yosemite National Park’s area, meadows may be home to one-third of all of the plant species found in the park,” the National Park Service said in a statement. “Most of San Francisco’s water is filtered by Yosemite’s meadows, including Ackerson Meadow.”
The expansion is a welcome piece of good news during a recent stretch during which Yosemite has grappled with controversy. Last year, as we reported in these very virtual pages, due to an ongoing legal dispute with a departing concessionaire, the National Park Service was forced to change many of the most famous names in the park. The most egregious of the changes: The Ahwahnee hotel, which dates back to 1927, became the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.
As yours truly reported in a story for TIME.com, Yosemite also has dealt with overcrowding issues for the better part of the past decade.
Although Yosemite dates back to 1890, the nation’s park service as a whole celebrates its centennial this year.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications includingTIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur,and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.