Yellowstone National Park reopening 60-90% of normal
by Pinedale Online!
May 22, 2020
On Monday, May 18th, Yellowstone National Park began Phase 1 of their reopening plan. Only the east and south entrances in Wyoming were open. Montana and Idaho entrances are still closed. Visitation through the first three days of operations was 90% of normal through the East Entrance near Cody and approximately 60% of normal through the South Entrance near Jackson. It is estimated over the first three opening days (May 18-20, 2020), there was less than 20% of the normal traffic volume in the park compared to when all five entrances are typically open in mid-May before the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The park expects traffic and visitation levels to grow over the Memorial Day weekend.
Overall, the Old Faithful boardwalk was one of the busiest sections of the park in the first three days of operations. A mix of compliance and non-compliance with social distancing was observed by park staff. Most families and groups traveling together were not socially distanced, as would be expected. Clear separation between these groups was observed in many cases, but not all. Masks are not required but are highly recommended in the park especially when social distancing is not possible. Park staff observed limited use of masks in outdoor areas.
In a media release on May 21st, the National Park Service said their number one priority was to keep their employees safe by implementing creative mitigation measures and following CDC guidance. The park has spent approximately $136,000 on COVID-19 mitigation over the past weeks: nearly $30k for personal protective equipment (PPE) (N-95 masks, Tyvek suits, face shields, regular masks, and gloves); nearly $50k for new electrostatic disinfectant sprayers to more effectively and expeditiously clean restrooms and facilities; $20k for facial coverings and thermometers; $16k for visitor center and entrance station mitigation (plexiglass shields, stanchions, other); and nearly $20k for signage. The park has another $40k pending in backordered charges for additional PPE and mitigation equipment.
Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said they have put substantial mitigation in place and their measures will continue evolving daily. "However, to visitors intending to visit Yellowstone: If you are not comfortable being in places where other visitors are not wearing masks, I suggest one of two things:
1) plan your visit for another time and donít come to the park now; or
2) donít put yourselves in situations where youíre around visitors who are not following health recommendations."
Sholly said park personnel expect the public to partner with them to protect each other. "While we are taking many actions to mitigate health concerns, including widespread messaging, signage, and direct public interface, the National Park Service in Yellowstone will not be actively telling citizens to spread out and put masks on, especially outdoors. While we recommend it, per CDC guidelines, primarily in areas where social distancing cannot be adhered to, we will not be enforcing the wearing of masks in outdoor areas. Once facilities begin to open, the park will evaluate more rigid guidelines on social distancing and facial coverings indoors."
The decision to reopen Yellowstone National Park and decisions on how to proceed forward with respect to the coronavirus pandemic are being made in close concert with state and local partners, including health officials, and with support from the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service. Park officials will observe and make adjustments to their operations, whether to expand or contract services, as the COVID-19 public health situation unfolds over time.
Click here for the Yellowstone National Park Reopening Plan. (PDF)
Click here for the Yellowstone National Park May 13, 2020 news release regarding Phase 1.