MISSOULA – The pictures of Glacier National Park on fire are all over the Internet this week and tourism promoters are scrambling to explain that only a select portion of the park Glacier is closed now because of the Howe Ridge Fire.
They’re not only offering reassurances, but asking Montana residents to help spread the word.
Racene Friede of Glacier Country Tourism says the dramatic pictures of Sunday night’s blowup have spread across the Internet, leading some visitors to believe the entire park is ablaze.
“Our social feeds are full of very dramatic fire images right now," Friede said. "And while they’re beautiful, they do cause a little bit of alarm. And while we don’t want to take away from what is happening, fire is part of our story and a natural part of our ecology. It also can create some fear and trepidation with people who are coming here for their vacation and that they’ve been planning for years or for months so…”
The problem is created whenever Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed. In fact, this scenario is familiar. Last summer at this same time, the big Sprague Fire and other lightning-caused fires closed an even larger area.
Friede wants tourists to know the vast majority of the park is open, including all the scenic spots east of the Divide.
“Some people think when the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed in any way the entire road is closed, and that’s just not the case," Friede said. "Logan Pass to St. Mary is totally open, along with the east side of Glacier National Park. So people really want to be able to go and visit that and it’s there for them.”
Glacier Country Tourism and other agencies are working to get that word out. But Friede says Montana residents can help by sharing accurate news updates and talking with their visiting friends and relatives.
“That absolutely can. For one thing you can either contact the National Park and on their web page is a hotline as well as a ‘current conditions’ section which talks about trail closures and openings. You can also contact your local visitor information center, chamber of commerce, Glacier Country or the State Tourism Office and we’d be happy to assist them as well. But just being able to remember that not all the park is closed. You can still go in and experience it. So just remember that and be willing to kind of flexible and change your plans a little bit.”
Fire closures don’t keep all the Glacier tourists away. In fact last year the park still set a visitation record, even with west side closures that lasted well into September.