Field Notes

Yellowstone Will Open on Time! Thank you Wyoming, Jackson Hole and Cody!

by adminMar 23, 2013

Here is the official press release issued by the Wyoming Office of Tourism yesterday outlining the successful collaboration between the state of Wyoming, the gateway communities and other partners to open Yellowstone National Park on time in 2013. When the superintendent of Yellowstone announced they would delay opening to make up for the 5% reduction in the park’s budget to make up for the shortfall required by the sequester, local interests began to step in to help the park get the roads cleared of snow and the gates open on time.

Gateway communities like Cody and Jackson Hole started to search for solutions before the ink was dry on the press release announcing the delayed park openings. Mayor Mark Barron in Jackson and the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce joined with partners in Cody and the State of Wyoming to rally state and local resources to get the gates open to the public. We were even threatening to get up to the park and shovel the road by hand – it would have been a hell of a project but a great team building exercise. Luckily we were able to come to an amicable agreement with Yellowstone that involved plows and professional road clearing techniques so the shovels were put away (for now!).

As a member of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce and a company that serves guests hoping to experience the magic of Yellowstone we would like to thank a few hard working and dedicated folks that fought hard to get the world’s first national park open on time. The Mayor of Jackson Hole, Mark Barron burned a ton of cell phone minutes and Jeff Golightly, the new director of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce has a phone impression on the side of his head. These guys and their staff responded decisively to the call to action by their members and constituents to ‘Gett’er Done’ as we say in Wyoming. With the help of the Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board committing resources along with Cody, Governor Matt Mead agreed to provide state equipment and manpower to get the job done. The signs will read ‘Yellowstone or Bust! This kind of initiative and solution oriented thinking is what makes me love living in Wyoming. Self reliance and a since of duty come together to solve problems – even if the problem isn’t ours.

There were some short sighted folks who resisted and pushed back at the idea of solving this crisis…… those I say – we Gott’er Done!

Press release below is from Lori Hogan, Sr. Communications Specialist, Wyoming Office of Tourism:

(Cheyenne, Wyoming, March 21, 2013) – Wyoming has set an example of how to deal with federal budget cuts by putting into action the “Code of the West.” Simply put, this “Code” consists of behaviors and rules that center around hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land.

As Yellowstone National Park struggled with the nearly $1.8 million budget cut due to sequestration and ways they could alleviate the impact on visitors and gateway communities, they chose to delay plowing roads this spring; which in turn would have delayed the opening of the East Gate from Cody and the South Gate from Jackson by two weeks.

“The delays would not have been good for our local or state economy,” said Scott Balyo, executive director of the Cody Chamber of Commerce, “Almost immediately upon hearing that the East Gate would not open on time we began working with local and state partners to find a solution.”

Governor Matt Mead along with mayors and private businesses in the gateway communities of Cody and Jackson met to discuss possible solutions. Collectively they agreed that the potential revenue loss from a delay would have real financial consequences, especially on small business owners.

Governor Matt Mead led the discussion by saying, “We value our national parks as the true assets they are, not only to Wyoming’s economy, but to the nation’s economy. Yellowstone is internationally recognized and by delaying the opening we not only lose the opportunity to generate millions in revenue but we lose the opportunity to host visitors who might be experiencing this natural wonder for the first time.”

Gateway communities in particular are an integral component of the national parks system and rely heavily on the traffic generated from their national and international draw. In addition to providing a supporting role, these communities provide air service, lodging, restaurants, outfitter and guide services and other activities that enhance and enrich the national park experience.

Jeff Golightly, executive director with the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce reiterated, “Jackson Hole as a community takes stewardship of our national parks very seriously. The idea that our nation’s first national park would not open on time for the world to enjoy was something we felt compelled to avoid. The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board and the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce felt it was our responsibility to protect our local tourism economy so we backed the plan right away by committing one time funds.”

Governor Mead offered equipment and personnel to assist with plowing efforts while the gateway communities pooled their resources, began fundraising and came up with money to fund the operation. Wyoming’s entrances to Yellowstone National Park will open as previously scheduled. The East Gate from Cody will open on May 3, 2013 and the South Gate from Jackson will open on May 10, 2013. These opening dates are still dependent on weather and road conditions. All visitors are encouraged to check the 24-hour road information line prior to traveling: 307-344-2117.

Superintendent Dan Wenk agreed to start plowing from inside the park while Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) crews make their way from the east and south gates to complete the snowplowing operations. WYDOT plows will be donning a large banner that reads “Yellowstone or Bust” based around a summer road trip campaign that the Wyoming Office of Tourism is currently rolling out.

Diane Shober, Director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism attests, “Wyoming represents the iconic cowboy and not just because we’re a Western state, but because cowboys stand for something, they are entrepreneurs and they live by the simple basic values that lie at the heart of the cowboy way. This is what the “Wyoming, Forever West” brand is all about.” As the Wyoming Office of Tourism gets ready to launch their national summer campaign, the goal remains to promote Wyoming as a vacation destination to domestic and international visitors while increasing revenue for stakeholders and the state of Wyoming.

· Yellowstone National Park (YNP) received 3.4 million visitors in 2012. Source: National Park Service reports

· Traffic through the East Gate in the first two weeks of May in 2012 totaled 11,500 people in 4,200 cars. The estimated local economic impact for Cody is $2 million for that time period.

· At the South Gate in Jackson, 17,553 visitors passed through during the entire month of May generating an estimated $2.3 million.

· Tourism is Wyoming’s second leading industry. In 2012 travelers generated $3.1 billion in direct expenditures to the State of Wyoming. Source: 2012 Economic Impact Report

· Xanterra Parks & Resorts of Yellowstone will open all lodging and visitor services as scheduled

· East Gate from Cody opens May 3, 2012 (weather dependent)

· South Gate from Jackson opens May 10, 2012 (weather dependent)

Renny MacKay, Press Secretary for Governor Matt Mead

Diane Shober, Director of Wyoming Office of Tourism

Scott Balyo, Executive Director, Cody Chamber of Commerce

Jeff Golightly, Executive Director, Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce