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Plowing Beartooth an idea to save Yellowstone access

CHEYENNE (AP) — Plow the Beartooth Highway. It’s one idea being floated to aid tourism in Cody during a delay in opening Yellowstone National Park to automobiles this spring.

The annual job of clearing snow from park roads was supposed to begin Monday. Because of federal budget cuts, park officials announced Monday, spring plowing won’t start until March 18. That means many of the park’s roads will open to automobiles one to two weeks later than usual this spring.

 

One stopgap measure suggested by Scott Balyo, executive director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, is for the Wyoming and Montana state transportation departments to plow the Beartooth Highway to allow tourists in Cody to get into Yellowstone through the park’s Northeast Entrance.

“We hope that people will continue to come. We do want them to be able to have a route into the park,” Balyo said Monday.
The National Park Service estimates that the park-wide plowing delay — and letting the sun of Mr. Springtime do a bigger share of clearing snow — will save the National Park Service $30,000 a day, or a total of anywhere from $150,000 to $300,000, depending on the weather.

The Park Service doesn’t deny that fewer people will visit Yellowstone this spring as a result: About 135,000 fewer compared to last year, according to its estimate.
But the harm to tourism won’t be as bad as if the park allowed its roads to close earlier than usual this fall. The price would be more than 500,000 fewer visitors if Yellowstone were closed over the last two weeks of the fiscal year ending Oct. 1, according to Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk.

“For us, we felt it would be more effective for us to take the cuts at the lowest visitation time of year,” Wenk said Monday.
For businesses in Cody, it’s cold comfort. Fifty miles west of town, opening day for Yellowstone’s East Entrance this year has been pushed back from May 3 to May 17.

Balyo’s idea to plow the highest, curviest, snowiest and typically last-to-open approach to Yellowstone to boost tourism isn’t as crazy as it might seem.

The Beartooth Highway squiggles across the Montana-Wyoming line and ends at Cooke City, Mont., just outside the park’s Northeast Entrance.

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Tom Cotton

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