SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— The National Park Service marked the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act, by breaking ground Monday on a landmark project that aims to protect ancient sequoia trees.

On June 30, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed the act, which gave the state of California a grant to protect the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove.

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“In the middle of the Civil War with 2,000 people a day dying in this country, Congress and the president took time to reflect on the beautiful images that had been brought to them of Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove, and set aside Yosemite for all people for all time,” said Yosemite Conservancy President Mike Tollefson.

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He said a parking lot is being torn out that has impeded the growth of new sequoia and they’ll take steps to protect ancient trees, which date back thousands of years.

“It’s going to enhance the visitor experience. It’s going to improve the enjoyment in the grove because you won’t be walking around the grove in a parking lot, which is what it is today. Also, there will be fully accessible trails through parts of the grove, which today there’s not,” he said.

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Once the work is complete, Tollefson said some of the trails will be wheelchair accessible and the park will be getting new bathrooms as well. The restoration will take several years to complete.