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History of the Living History Community

The Community and the Park

Since its creation, Sequoia National Park has endeavored to include Mineral King in its boundaries. Success was long in coming. Eighty-eight years of negotiations, divided interests, opposing management perceptions, legislation, trust and distrust, have marked the process.

Mineral King Valley Aug. 2005

The first request for Mineral King's inclusion in the park came at the end of the first year of Sequoia's creation. Asking that the park's boundaries be extended to include Mineral King, Acting Superintendent Captain Joseph Dorst wrote in his first annual report of 1891 that its inclusion would "materially lighten the labor of the guardians of the park on the east side."

The back country of the park was being patrolled from a base camp that was not even within its boundaries and Dorst recommended that such an omission needed to be rectified. That camp was in Mineral King.

However, he continued in his report, " Should this district be annexed to the park, the privilege of letting (families) camp here as formerly, under proper restrictions, ought not, from a humane point of view, be denied them."

Inclusion of Mineral King in the park and the terms of its usage have been the topics of an on-going dialogue between park, forest service, potential developers, users, conservationists and the general public for 120 years.

In 1881, the first proposal for a national public park in the region included Mineral King. However, both the first and second Congressional bills that created Sequoia and General Grant National Parks in 1890 excluded the valley. Once again, between 1916 to 1919, a proposed enlargement included Mineral King. But in its final form that created a smaller enlargement in 1926 the Mineral King valley was excluded.

It took a bill that focused solely on Mineral King to bring fruition to the park¹s dreams of gaining control of the valley. This was Senator John Krebs' bill of 1976 that laid the foundation for legislation that would finally succeed. On November 10, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Omnibus Park Bill which included transfer of the Mineral King Valley to the National Park Service.

Hailed as a victory for conservation, the inclusion did little to quell the forces of controversy. One of the provisions of the new law was to allow indefinitely, five-year renewals of cabin permits to the permittees of record who occupied the historic buildings of the century old community. This was not a satisfactory arrangement for either the community members or for park officials being guided by growing public demands that private enclaves on public lands be eliminated.

Compounding the problem was the community's former backing of Mineral King¹s park inclusion after the Forest Service threatened to eliminate it in favor of modern development. Feelings of being abandoned, used and misled followed the park's requirement that cabin owners, in order to maintain a lease, must agree to limit their rights of usage by signing permits that restricted occupancy of the buildings to then current owners of record.

For years, park officials and community lessees struggled over historic private rights versus modern concepts of public usage. Denied designation as even a potential historic district by the park, the Mineral King Preservation Society was formed in 1986. For fifteen years, it worked with the park and state and federal preservation offices to have the valley's historic sites, road and community recognized and preserved by being listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1999, with the development of a new General Management Plan for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the Park Service took up its own quest for historic preservation of the Mineral King Road Corridor through listing in the National Register. At the same time, it reached out to the community for further cooperation. Cooperative development of preservation guidelines for the cabins, and greater public education regarding the history of the historic road corridor were initiated.

2003 was a banner year. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed creating a cooperative relationship between the Park and the Preservation Society. The Cabin Repair and Maintenance Guidelines were completed by the Park and Preservation Society and distributed to the cabin community. On October 24, the Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Along with the National Register listing, a congressional bill making cabin owners’ land use permits transferable, was signed into law on December 8, 2004, creating a new dynamic. Sequoia National Park, the Mineral King Preservation Society, and Mineral King District Association entered a new era of cooperative efforts to maintain the historical integrity of the valley’s cabins, community, and historic sites. Those efforts continue today.

But there still is much to be accomplished. The physical preservation of this unique high mountain living historic community can only become reality through the combined efforts of those who understand and protect its heritage and those who administrate it. The community has become an integral asset of the Sequoia National Park experience. Only the continuing development of a cooperative management will ensure its true preservation.

History of the Living Historic Community
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www.MineralKing.org (last updated 3/18/10 )