WEST GLACIER — West Glacier opened up to visitors on Monday and businesses in the area are hopeful for more tourism.
Glacier National Park had been closed since March 24, due to the coronavirus concerns. but is now open with limited services and recreational areas.
Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President Joe Unterreiner told MTN that the opening of the gates is a huge step for the Flathead Valley.
"Just to say that it's open, even on a limited basis would be normal for this time of the year," he said. "And if you don't have it, it's sort of an indicator that we're not really fully into our tourism and recreation here in the Flathead."
He explained that being open attracts tourists to the valley instead of other places and states, "if we don't know when the park is opening, they're making plans to go to Yellowstone Park which is open, or other parks, Yosemite Park," said Unterreiner.
Another business that's looking towards the complete opening of Glacier National Park is Big Sky water park in Columbia Falls.
General Manager of the park Roger Elliot says the park is opening on June 20 -- with a lot of safety measures. However, Elliot is doubtful opening just the west side of Glacier National Park will help them out.
"With just the west side opening it doesn't do a whole lot for the park tourists other than the few people that are here," he said. "But the Going to the Sun Road does open we've always noticed a large influx of tourists at that time."
Elliot explained to MTN News that once opened, the park will have appropriate social distancing and limits on certain water slides. He says that due to coronavirus the water park has lost thousands of dollars and reservations noting that at this time of the year the water park hosts multiple school trips.
He told MTN News that once the park is fully open through the east side, more tourists will come.
Unterreiner said that the Chamber's next big project is to push for the reopening of the Canadian border which will drive crucial tourism into the Flathead Valley.