This 1905 photograph shows the giant Wawona Tree in Mariposa Grove. A tunnel was cut through the tree in 1881; the tree fell in 1969. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Yosemite National Park officials on Monday marked President Abraham Lincoln’s June 30, 1864, signing of a bill that first protected the California park’s land. But they also began a project to undo much of what has happened to Yosemite since then. Construction crews broke ground on a $36 million project to remove the noise, clutter and cars from Mariposa Grove, an area of sequoia trees.

“The first thing you see now is the gift shop, and the first thing you hear is a generator,” said Sue Beatty, a Yosemite biologist.

The 550-acre grove, home to some of the world’s largest trees, should be a place for reflection and awe, she said.

More than a century of tourism, however, brought pavement and traffic jams. Parking lots and poorly designed hiking trails are compacting the roots of the trees, some more than 2,000 years old.

Yosemite plans to move the parking lot two miles away.

“We want it to be a more reverential experience, and less commercial,” Beatty said. “More like it was in 1864.”

— MCT Information Services