WEST YELLOWSTONE - If the northern half of Yellowstone National Park remains closed for the remainder of the season and visitation is limited in the southern half, many tourism businesses will feel the pinch.
In West Yellowstone, a mad scramble is beginning to save the summer tourism season.
“Remember this just happened Sunday.”
That’s Yellowstone Park Superintendent Cam Sholly reminding everyone during a Zoom briefing that it's still way too early to make firm predictions about when the Yellowstone National Park gates will reopen after catastrophic flooding.
“We know that our businesses are already starting to get cancellations and it’s starting to hit us already,” said Katrina Wiese, president and West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce CEO.
Things might get worse too. Sholly says when the park does reopen, perhaps in a week, there could be limits on who gets in.
“One thing we know is that half the park cannot support all the visitation,” said Sholly.
He says that means there could be timed entry rules or reservations required to get into the park.
“Well, if they put a reservation system in place, at least they’re getting the park open for us," said Wiese. "And, you know, I can’t talk for all of our businesses, but I can say the sentiment is we’d rather be open in some capacity than completely closed.”
“We’re already working with the Northern Rocky Mountain Development District out of Bozeman, and we’ll do our best to leave no stone unturned,” said Park County Supervisor Bill Berg.
Berg says many businesses, but especially those on the northern side of the park will suffer and will need help to survive. In the meantime, visitors are stranded outside the gates.
“A big deal yes, because this is the principal why we came here, you know pretty big deal, but still, not bummed out ‘cause there’s a lot to do in Montana in general and in Yellowstone as well,” said Louis Moreno, visiting from Salt Lake City.
That’s just what Wiese wants to hear.
“Hopefully it’s just going to impact us this week, and maybe next week, and then ultimately travel probably travel will not be back to what it was, or what it could have been, but hopefully, hopefully, they’re still wanting to come here and visit us because we’re ready to welcome them,” she said.
Sholly says when the park does reopen, expect all three southern entrances, that would be West Yellowstone, Cody and south from Grand Teton, to open at the same time.