Yellowstone National Park will reopen for the 2020 season in phases and in keeping with the wishes of the states and communities surrounding the park, Superintendent Cam Sholly said Friday.
Sholly, speaking during Town Square Media’s “Economy Town Hall” broadcast on the company’s Wyoming radio stations, said the decision to close the park five weeks ago was made after discussions with the governors, community leaders and businesses surrounding the park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
The decision to open will be made with the same consultations, he said.
“We had a lot of consensus from our state governors, our health officials, our communities and counties that closing five weeks ago was a good way to go,” he said.
“What I’ve seen in the last week, especially, is a real substantial shift off of that and people’s perspectives starting to change substantially. I’m not positive where the stressors of the economics start to override the fear of the virus, but I think we’re approaching that right now.”
No date has been set for the park’s reopening, but the process will take place over time as officials take into consideration various restrictions in place in surrounding states, Sholly said.
“We’re balancing changing restrictions in the states,” he said. “We’re trying to reconcile the three states, the major counties the park sits in and around and the communities to try to figure out what a phased approach to opening might look like.”
The first phase might involve what Sholly called a “soft opening,” with extremely limited services.
“Then we would start to sort of monitor … what does that influx of tourism look like as far as the impact not only within the park, but within the gateway communities and states around us,” he said.
If conditions allow, more services could be opened as the season progresses, he said.
Sholly said he has spoken with more than 600 business and civic leaders from around the park in the past week about how the park should open.
“There are a number of divergent opinions on when to open and how to open,” he said. “One thing that’s consistent is that everybody ultimately wants us to open.”
The park might face some challenges in maintaining social distancing at popular attractions such as Old Faithful Geyser, Sholly said.
“We’re going to rely on partnering with the public to adhere to whatever the national, local, state health guidance is,” he said. “We’re going to do a lot of messaging, signage, we’ll do our best to manage that, but there may be some areas where that will be more difficult than others.”