Yellowstone reopens to visitors but nearby businesses still struggle
Barricaded entrances to national parks, like Yellowstone and Glacier, were one of the most visible effects of the shutdown. We drove down to Gardiner Thursday at the north entrance to Yellowstone to speak to nearby businesses and returning visitors.
Sandy West and her husband take in the wildlife at Mammoth Hot Springs. The two were married in October of 1963 but an accident kept them from making it to Yellowstone. Fifty years later, the two feared their plans would fall through again.
"I was sort of upset," says West. She's not the only one. Georgia resident Bob Adams and his friend Sandy flew into Jackson last Friday but the shutdown kept them from the park, until now.
"I'm sure we've missed out. Being a nature photographer interested in wildlife you never know what you're going to come across at any given time," explains Adams.
The two were making a loop around Yellowstone and decided to prolong their trip when it reopened.
"I was excited. I was happy for Sandy that -- her never being out here before -- being able to get her into the park and letting her see it," says Adams.
As visitors make their way back into the park, those trying to run a business in Gardiner tell us the damage has already been done.
"We were going to have a relatively good October. It looked better than last year and last year was better than the last two years," explains Best Western General Manager Deborah Mackey.
Mackey says their numbers for the month are down. They have 15 rooms booked Thursday, compare that to 42 the same night last year.
"On the first, we had 80-percent cancellation, just for that day and then it was almost 90-percent for the last 16 days," says Mackey.
Mackey tells us it's been a ghost town and explains many businesses have closed early for the season.
"Do you feel like you might be able to make up for lost time?" we asked. "No. There's no way this time of year," answered Mackey.
Yellowstone National Park Spokesperson Al Nash says he understands folks were frustrated and upset about the park's closure. He says Yellowstone would have seen 100,000 visitors the past two weeks if the government had not shut down.
"We just want to acknowledge to all of the area residents and especially those immediately around the park that we understand that this has been a trying time for everybody, for residents, for employees of all sorts of businesses. This government shutdown has had an impact and a big impact on a lot of lives," Nash says.
Nash explains they've been putting a plan into place to reopen the park for several days and tells us they've been looking forward to welcoming visitors back.
"Fall is such a wonderful time to visit the park...We wanted people back into their park," says Nash.
While Mackey say she'll have to wait until the summer months to start making money again, visitors like West are making the most of the rest of their trip.
"We're glad it's open. It's our anniversary, so we're happy," smiles West.
Old Faithful Visitor Education Center and the temporary Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs are open. The Mammoth Hot Springs and Lewis Lake Campgrounds are also open, as is the Yellowstone General Store in Mammoth Hot Springs.
Pay at the pump fuel is available by credit card at spots throughout the park but all other visitor services in Yellowstone have closed for the season.