While plans are in place to reopen Glacier National Park in early June, a specific date has not yet been announced, and it’s still not clear exactly how operations will look when the park does open back up the public.
The "Crown of the Continent" closed on March 27 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Park Superintendent Jeff Mow says that it’s very likely that the Park will resemble what visitors normally see around June, which already offers limited amenities and park locations to visitors.
Part of the preparation process includes enhanced sanitizing measures, social distancing signage, and how to deal with a potentially large influx of people coming in from out of state.
“We don’t have a great understanding, just yet, of what that more distant market will look like,” Mow explained. “Obviously, the airlines won’t be flying at the capacity they’re used to, the Canadian border being closed into June is going to sort of temper the visitation that we usually see from the north, and we’ll see what the interest is for visitors that have to drive 600 miles or more to get to Glacier, what that looks like.”
Park officials are following guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention for social distancing and sanitation, and they are also working with Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services State medical officer Greg Holzman, officials from the Blackfeet Nation, and Flathead County and Glacier County.
One of the difficulties that the park has faced is that some staff members had to travel across the country to get to the park. The delay in that process has slowed the preparations for reopening. The park will not be able to operate a full range of services when they first open, but Mow says that the primary focus right now is simply opening their doors to the public.
One thing that Mow has consistently asked of his staff and future visitors is patience.
“I think the nature of COVID-19, I think for our visitors, as well as for our staff, it’s evolving,” said Mow. “We’re asking people to be adaptable and flexible. I always like to say ‘Glacier National Park is the tip of the iceberg for what’s available in Northwest Montana,’ so I think people should just keep that in mind and recognize that if the park is very crowded or if it’s difficult to access because of the demand, that there’s lots of other opportunities in NW Montana for recreation and spectacular scenery.”
He also likened it to building an airplane while flying. Even Mow’s six and a half years as the Glacier National Park Superintendent couldn’t quite prepare him for a global pandemic. He said that there aren’t any clear cut solutions, and the evolving nature of the pandemic has created a unique situation for everyone from movie theater managers to park rangers.
When asked if he had any predictions on how the flow of tourists will be when the part first opens, Mow laughed and said, “if you know the answer to that question, you could probably make a million dollars.”