Sharsmith Peak On Hold

In History, Local, News

Carl Sharsmith’s name is almost synonymous with Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows. He was a much beloved naturalist whose nature walks inspired millions to step off the asphalt and see the wild Yosemite few do. Unfortunately efforts to honor the longtime Yosemite icon by naming a peak in his honor have run into a bureaucratic quagmire. “Yosemite National Park activists want to name a 12,002-foot peak after the late alpine botanist Carl Sharsmith. Separately, lawmakers want to designate part of the Mineral King Valley the John Krebs Wilderness, commemorating the former congressman who helped preserve the region.

‘It’s a nice legacy and tribute, while he can still appreciate it,’ Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said of the Krebs proposal.

Krebs is 80 years old, living in Fresno. Sharsmith died in 1994, after spending more than 60 years as a naturalist in Yosemite. The efforts to rename features after the men are following different tracks.

Together, the Sierra Nevada renaming efforts illustrate the two basic ways of changing names of natural features. One route is bureaucratic, and the other is political. Both get complicated.

The Sharsmith Peak proposal is going through the Board of Geographic Names, staffed with representatives of agencies ranging from the Forest Service to the Postal Service.

The board must follow a 52-page manual of rules, some of which impede the Sharsmith Peak proposal.

‘We earlier felt our proposal a likely success,’ said Bill Jones, Yosemite’s former chief naturalist and a leading Sharsmith Peak proponent. ‘We now feel the board would reject our proposal if considered now.’

Jones last January submitted a formal Sharsmith Peak application.

The selected peak, immedi- ately northwest of Tioga Pass, hosts the high-altitude flora the late ranger loved, and hikers already called it Sharsmith Peak.

Mono County supervisors endorsed the idea, as did several former Yosemite superintendents. California’s Advisory Committee on Geographic Names, however, concluded the mountain peak was within protected wilderness and recommended against the change.

‘A fundamental characteristic of wilderness is that features are nameless and the cultural overlay of civilization is absent,’ the board’s manual notes.

The board’s rules add that name proposals for wilderness areas are ‘discouraged’ save for an ‘overriding need.’ Consequently, although no formal decision has yet been made, Sharsmith Peak advocates now think they must outflank the bureaucracy and petition Congress.”

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