Posted: May 10, 2013 7:28 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: May 10, 2013 7:28 PM
All gates leading into Yellowstone National Park are now open, despite some uncertainty caused by federal budget cuts triggered by sequestration.
Because of the cuts, Yellowstone was scheduled to push back its opening because the Park couldn't afford to plow all the roads.
But the towns of Cody and Jackson Hole in Wyoming raised the money and sent trucks into the Park.
Cody Beers of theWyoming Department of Transportation said, "This year our crews were encountering snow depths of anywhere from three to seven feet. We brought in snow blowers. We had a bulldozer. We had snow plows breaking the ice pack.
For the communities near the Park, losing two weeks of tourist season would have had a huge economic impact.
Jeff Golightly, Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce CEO, said, "Closure could have impacted far beyond the two weeks that it was scheduled to be closed. In 1995 and 1996 when there was a non-essential services shutdown, the Park was only closed two weeks but I had people asking for two years if the gate had reopened."
So now the roads are clear and visitors coming early can expect to see some remarkable wildlife.
Al Nash, Yellowstone National Park spokesman, noted, "The young bison are out, so you are going to see bison calves. Soon we are going to start seeing elk calves. Because the food is down lower, which is where our roads are, this is a great time of the year to come and look for bears."
Last year the Park had about 3.4 million visitors come through the gates and they are expecting a few more this season.
Rick Hoeninghausen, Yellowstone marketing director, said, "We should expect a very good season, advance reservations are up over last year which is very encouraging, and last year was pretty good too. So it looks like as far as travel is concerned there has definitely been a rebound in recent years and Yellowstone is a place where a lot of people want to go."