Yellowstone National Park re-opened its south loop last Wednesday to visitors. With several entrances to the park closed for recovery and reconstruction, the park experienced slowdowns with heavy traffic and back-up, though employees of the park say that the majority of those issues have now been resolved.
According to the National Park Services (NPS), the re-opening day held less than 5,000 vehicles on a day that would typically have over 10,000 cars visiting the park. The reduction of numbers was a planned change by NPS that allowed only cars with the last numerical license plate digit being odd to enter on odd days of the month, and vice-versa with even numbers and even days of the month. This alternating license plate system is expected to continue throughout the summer tourist season.
These drastic changes to one of the nation’s most popular attractions comes on the heels of record rainfall in the area that led to major flooding.
This flooding damaged infrastructure such as roadways, bridges, trails, and powerlines within the park—in addition, community members and wildlife have also experienced the negative side effects of the flooding.
Recovery predictions now range as high as $1 billion, as Yellowstone officials and the NPS begin to make plans for moving forward. Not only is the list of repairs extensive including repair and rebuild of roads, bridges, sewer systems, and other facilities, but the higher costs of conservation must be factored in to the park’s decisions.
Additionally, efforts to maintain wildlife patterns and migration patterns also have top-tier consideration in the plans for reconstruction.
Superintendent Cam Sholly is well aware of the difficult road ahead, no pun intended:
“This is not going to be an easy rebuild. I don’t think it’s going to be smart to invest potentially, you know, tens of millions of dollars, or however much it is, into repairing a road that may be subject to seeing a similar flooding event in the future.”
The National Parks Conservation Association is also set to host an in-person fundraising event including a silent auction in Bozeman, Montana today. Virtual bids are also being taken and some auction items include a Yellowstone Bourbon Collection and a year’s supply of Cabot’s cheeses.