YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday in Yellowstone National Park, but most people will never see the new structures.
Nonetheless, park leaders say the buildings will make a big difference for visitors. The structures are dozens of small homes for Park Service employees.
“There’s a direct correlation between a satisfied team member or employee and their living conditions. and that translates to how they perform at work," Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said at the ceremony.
A park ranger demonstrated how that works by recounting a story about a fellow ranger. She said the seasonal ranger who had worked in the park for years and had just arrived in Yellowstone two days ago, was assigned one of the new housing units.
I think it just shows how really important home is for people and especially people coming from across the country and coming here away from home.”
“When she walked in, she almost burst out crying, and one of the things that were really exciting for her was that there was a dishwasher. So, but I think it just shows how really important home is for people and especially people coming from across the country and coming here away from home,” said Ranger Mary Wilson, a Resource Education and Youth Programs manager.
The new, modular homes replace 64 mobile homes from the 1960s and 1970s that were in terrible condition. It’s a problem that is growing in the park.
“Just here in Mammoth, we have about 100 employees that have homes in Gardiner, and 60 of those employees are going to retire in the next year. With everything turning to Airbnb, VRBO, no rentals, the housing availability being what it is which is almost non-existent,” said Sholly.
That means the 60 new workers who will replace those retiring, will have no place to live. It’s a problem of which Sholly is keenly aware.
“As great as Yellowstone is, if you bring people here and they don’t have housing, they’re not going to come. If you bring people here and they have housing that’s in horrible condition, they’re going to go other places,” he said.
This is just the start. Sholly says hundreds of other housing units need upgrading or replacement. In the meantime, the new homes aim to be more than just housing.
“I think it’s community, it’s an opportunity to engage with a co-worker, outside of work, on a weekend and et to know someone on a different level,” said Ranger Bob Kammel who helped plan the development.
He said that developing a sense of community is why all the homes have a generous front porch, and a semi-circular arrangement which means everyone on one porch, can see all the others.
Kammel added, “And this space is an opportunity to visit with your neighbor, to say hi, and you can engage at a very simple level and say hello or you can say, hey come on up and let’s visit.”
So far the park has replaced or improved about 40 percent of the staff housing in Yellowstone.