YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - The north entrance of Yellowstone National Park serves as a lifeline for communities in Gardiner and Cooke City.
That’s why park officals are working as fast as they can to get people back into the park.
“We will be opening the northern loop,” said National Park Service Director Charles Sams.
As the historic Roosevelt Arch sat unusually empty, park officials on Sunday announced that although the northern entrances will remain closed for the time being, they expect to open the northern loop to access from the south within the next two weeks.
“Which will give the American public 80% access to the park,” Sams said.
The announcement comes after the park was able to secure $50 million in funding from the Federal Highway Administration.
The goal is to use the funds for long-term and short-term repairs.
“We are absolutely committed to reconnecting the communities — including their commerce — as fast as possible. It’s got to be safe, it can't be done in a hasty way where we cause more problems,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly.
Washed-out roads and eroded hills filled with debris are visible from the north side of the park.
Park officials are optimistic as the Park is slated to open its south loop this Wednesday, and they hope to provide some temporary fixes in the northern end of the park.
“As we are doing more of a flood recovery approach in the north, we’re also looking at going operational down south,” Sholly said.
Park leaders say they are prepared as the park is set to once again welcome visitors through the southern entrance.
For Gardiner, which sits quiet, the goal is to get people through gateway communities.
“I’m very, very confident that we will have at least commercial use operators out of Gardiner, wildlife tours, those types of things, going back into the park this summer,” said Sholly.
That won’t necessarily help businesses that depend on non-guided park visitors, but it does throw a lifeline to a couple of small communities that are utterly dependent on tourism.
“We’re just asking people to be kind, to be considerate, and to understand that the staff are under stress but they are wanting to invite you in,” said Sams.
The two northern entrances from Gardiner and Cooke City will remain closed for the time being because roads in those areas have more extensive damage.
Park officials say they expect to release a timeline for reopening those two entrances this week.