YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (CBS SF) — You could say that the historic Mariposa Grove of Sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park was loved just a little bit too much.

Decades of visitors and their cars had taken its toll on the grove so three years ago park rangers decided to block access to it and give it a $40 million makeover. On Thursday, it was set to be reopened.

“You can see that people have come up to this tree before and feel the bark and maybe pull a strip of bark off,” said National Park Service Restoration Ecologist Sue Beatty standing next to one of the majestic Sequoias. “So if we have thousands of people coming to visit the grove, we just can’t allow people to come up and touch the trees anymore.”

So fences were erected around the base of the trees and raised walkways were built to protect roots.

“All those footsteps would compact the soil around those trees and the roots are very shallow,” she said. “So, if you compact that soil they are not able to grab the water nutrients they need.”

The Grove’s history stems back to the Civil War days and it has been visited by millions including Presidents William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt.

“The law that Abraham Lincoln signed back in June of 1864 established Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoias,” said park ranger Dean Shenk. “So even back in the midst of our country’s Civil War… They realize that America, maybe even the world, would be a better place if Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove was protected.”

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