YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly says a temporary, paved road will be in place at the north entrance to the park before winter.
Sholly made the announcement during an appearance with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland at Old Faithful Friday morning.
Haaland praised the park staff for the way they reacted to historic flooding that destroyed large portions of main access roads in the northern part of the park.
“We are here to support, to rebuild together, and (I am) just incredibly impressed at the team that Cam has here at the park,” said Haaland.
Sholly said the work on the new road from Gardiner is made possible by $60 million in emergency appropriations from the Departments of Interior and Transportation.
“We can use that to reconnect Gardiner and those corridors, and we’re going to just that, before winter," he said.
But a long-term solution is a much harder task.
Sholly predicts it will take three to five years to rebuild the washed-out roads at a cost that is estimated by a congressional committee at a billion dollars, but which Sholly says is still unknown.
“There will be a range on what it’ll cost, based on what will be the least environmentally impacting, what is the most expeditious, what is the best cost investment, a variety of other criteria that we look at as we put those numbers together,” said Sholly.
Where that money will come from is still unknown, but Haaland said, “I got many calls from my former calls from my former colleagues in Congress who are incredibly supportive of how we’re going to rebuild.”
Shortly after Haaland and Sholly spoke in the southern part of the park, visitors in the newly opened north loop said they had to change some plans, but didn’t let the videos of the extensive damage to park roads keep them away.
“We were going to come with her sister and a big party coming out from Pennsylvania, but they had to cut theirs short as well. So we decided again, flippin’ that coin, came up heads, and here we are, and I’m really glad we made that decision,” said Richard Martinez of California.
Florida resident Diana DeNitt said she canceled a reservation in a cabin in Gardiner but re-booked in Bozeman.
“We were coming whether we saw Yellowstone or not. We were going to see, you know, Montana, and Idaho," she said. "There’s a lot, a lot to see here. You really can’t do it all in one trip.”
Behind the Park Ranger offices in Mammoth piles of gravel are piled up and heavy equipment is parked in a line just beneath the old stagecoach road. Old Gardiner Road serves as a rough, but alternate route to Gardiner.
Sholly says the road will be paved before winter so there will be access to the northern part of Yellowstone by the time the snow flies.