GARDINER - State and federal officials — along with the community of Park County and Gardiner came together on Friday to address the concern of local businesses following the closure of Yellowstone National Park after devastating floods destroyed roads, homes and infrastructure.
Like many ‘Gateway Communities’, these next four to five months mean the world to businesses, outfitters, guides, hotels, and more. Tourist traffic heading to and from the park is essential for businesses in Gardiner.
Chelsea DeWeese — who helps operate her family’s motel in town, the Yellowstone River Motel — stressed the blow the current closure is causing local businesses to everyone at the roundtable.
“That five miles between us and Mammoth is our lifeline, without it we will wither and die on the vine,” DeWeese said, with one hand on her notes, her other holding a stack of canceled reservations.
"This stack of reservations represents the cancellations we have received at our family motel since Monday,” DeWeese said, “The bottom line is this, lodging will not survive another season of lost revenue, here in Gardiner.”
DeWeese notes the employees she’s had to let go — right after finding the bodies to fill the positions and the revenue that will be lost — if the Mammoth entrance remains closed.
Senator Steve Daines — co-chair's the National Parks Committee in the US Senate — is actively working alongside Senator Angus King to get assistance for Yellowstone National Park.
“I am very confident we will get the resources needed to make the infrastructure better than it was before the flood." - Sen Steve Daines (R-Mont.)
Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly notes that the plan is to open the entrances from the south next week. Anything is subject to change, but that still leaves the entrance near Gardiner closed.
In an earlier release, Sholly stated, "we have made tremendous progress in a very short amount of time but have a long way to go. All emergency and life safety objectives within the park have been accomplished or stabilized within the first 96 hours of the flood event, without major injury or death. We have an aggressive plan for recovery in the north and resumption of operations in the south. We appreciate the tremendous support from the National Park Service and Department of Interior leadership, in addition to our surrounding Congressional delegations, governors, counties, communities, and other partners. These first 96 hours have been critical to be able to focus on our life safety objectives and stabilizing emergency conditions while preparing plans for recovery.”
President Biden signed the Disaster Declaration on Thursday, June 16 which put the wheels in motion for FEMA to begin implementing public infrastructure work. Roads, bridges and other public works are the first priority.
“As we assess the needs of the community, and look for other programs — there are programs for small businesses to keep their employees during this difficult time,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said.
What can Montanan’s or people who are considering canceling their Yellowstone trip do? Daines and Gianforte both agree that Montana is open for business and these communities have so much to offer.
Earlier on Friday, Yellowstone National Park officials said though access to Yellowstone National Park will be less than normal until further notice, there are still incredible opportunities for recreation, wildlife viewing, and great experiences in the park’s gateway communities (Gardiner, Montana; Silver Gate and Cooke City, Montana; West Yellowstone, Montana; Cody, Wyoming; and Jackson, Wyoming), as well as surrounding areas in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. View a list of nearby cities, parks, public lands, and museums to help plan your visit.
Park officials say Yellowstone continues its efforts to recover from historic flooding and that a limited re-opening is "highly possible" next week at the park's south loop, with certain visitor entrance modifications.
However, as of Friday, June 17, 2022, all five park entrances are closed temporarily. Officials say the West, South, and East entrances are targeted for reopening as early as next week.