Mike Tollefson, president of the Yosemite Fund, was hosted by Channel City Club to speak about preserving the National Park. Addressing club members and guests last week during a luncheon meeting at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, Tollefson, who also served as the park’s superintendent for five years ending in 2008, called Yosemite an iconic symbol of the disappearing American wilderness which must be conserved.
The Yosemite Fund is a non-profit organization that balances conservation with visitor experience, according to Tollefson, driven by “a passion to provide for Yosemite’s future.” The fund takes on many projects that, in Tollefson’s words, “add an excellence the government misses.” It contributed $6 million dollars to the park last year, he said, money that was invested in trail maintenance, research on owls and falcons, renovations of the visitor center, and outdoor youth programs geared towards connecting young people to the natural world, while also offering them employment.
The park is a focal point for the eight Native American tribes which surround the area, Tollefson said, and acts as a unifying presence. While it was not the first national park, Yosemite is “the mother of the national park system,” said Tollefson, who served as the park’s supervisor for five years ending in 2008. He noted that it was held in reverence by Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. From the spectacular sights and booming waterfalls to the overwhelming vastness of Sequoia high country, the “the grandeur that is Yosemite” cannot be overestimated, he said.
The Channel City Club brings speakers from all over to bring to light a wide range of issues. Members have described their organization as “a window into the world.”