“Looks like our East Gate will be a timely opening,” said Claudia Wade.
Wade, marketing director for the Park County Travel Council in Cody, and Scott Balyo, executive director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, traveled to Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone to meet with Superintendent Dan Wenk on Monday.
Among other items on their conference agenda, they sought assurance from Wenk that the East Gate would open on the traditional first Friday in May, Wade said.
Wenk was fairly confident that the park’s budget would be largely restored to allow for spring plowing to get the gates open, Wade said.
The East Gate, approximately 52 miles west of Cody, is tentatively scheduled to open May 2 this year.
It opened May 3, 2013, after overcoming some snowy roadblocks. In March 2013, Wenk said the National Park Service would delay plowing snow two weeks to save money because of federal sequestration.
The Cody and Jackson chambers of commerce decided to raise the money to pay for Wyoming Department of Transportation equipment to plow the roads from the East and South entrances, respectively. Gov. Matt Mead authorized employing WyDOT equipment if the two communities paid for their use, and Wenk agreed to allow state-operated equipment in Yellowstone.
Cody collected $100,000. The Cody chamber put up half of that and others in Park County raised the remainder. Jackson gathered $70,600.
Thanks to those efforts the East and South Gates opened on time.
Everyone was pleased with the partnerships and the solution last spring. “But, we don’t want it to be the norm,” said Balyo.
“That was one of our main questions for him (Wenk) because of the situation last year,” Balyo added.
Wenk knew spring 2013 plowing was a one-time only deal, Wade said.
“We’re on target for a typical spring opening,” said Al Nash, Yellowstone spokesman.
Weather permitting, plowing will begin in Yellowstone in early March. The Park Service has snowplows, rotary plows that blow snow, road graders, “... and frankly, depending where we are we use bulldozers,” Nash said.
Park County begins gearing up for the summer season when it knows Yellowstone’s opening is around the corner. Wade and Balyo have maintained a positive rapport with Wenk. “It’s such an important relationship,” Balyo said.