SHERIDAN — The Burgess Junction Visitor Center reopened after a years-long closure Thursday thanks to a partnership between the Bighorn National Forest Service and Arrowhead Lodge.
BNFS Public Information Officer Sara Evans Kirol said Arrowhead will take over operations of the facility, which the BNF still owns. Arrowhead’s involvement will allow Burgess to function as both a visitor’s center and an event space.
“We’re excited to have it back open and have a partner,” Evans Kirol said. “For me, personally, it’s such a great, beautiful building and I’m glad to see it being used.”
Evans Kirol said the BNF struggled to pay the overhead costs of operating Burgess Junction after it lost its management partnership with the Rocky Mountain Nature Association.
She explained the termination of that partnership cut off the income BNF earned through Burgess Junction. Rocky Mountain had sold merchandise through the visitor center and the BNF is not allowed to sell that merchandise on its own.
The center opened briefly in 2017 when the U.S. Forest Service had to close the Shell Falls Interpretive Site for reconstruction. Before that, however, Evans Kirol said Burgess Junction had been closed since 2012.
“We were looking for a partner to reopen the visitor center because we could not function (the center) without assistance,” Evans Kirol said. “And [Arrowhead] stepped up.”
Charlene Severson — who purchased Arrowhead Lodge with her husband, Jared, in 2016 — said the BNF reached out to Arrowhead shortly after she took over to discuss a partnership that would reopen Burgess Junction.
In taking over operations of the center, Severson said she saw an opportunity to expand services Arrowhead can offer visitors.
“We are very limited in our space for events, or rentable venues, at Arrowhead,” Severson said. “So we saw the opportunity to fill that need.”
In addition to operating the gift shop in the center, which will sell items from local artists and vendors, Arrowhead will rent out Burgess Junction’s exhibit hall for events like weddings.
Severson said Arrowhead plans on operating Burgess Junction from Memorial Day through Labor Day. That means the center will only be open a month this year, but she said she and her husband wanted to get started as soon as possible.
And though it’s only been open for a couple of days, Severson said Burgess Junction’s reopening has been met with enthusiasm.
“Not even halfway through day two, it has been phenomenal,” Severson said. “We’ve had people come from the Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, Canada…And of course we’ve had a lot of support from our local people too.”
The visitor center is currently open Wednesday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.