Grand Teton National Park and Argentine Sister Park Work on Mending Trails

Aristides Aieta traveled to Grand Teton National Park from Argentina to learn how to build sturdier hiking trails. NPS photo.

A "sister park" agreement between Grand Teton National Park and an Argentine national park is building more than good will -- it's leading to more durable hiking trails in the Austral Andes.

From August through September, employees from Parque Nacional Los Glaciares worked alongside Grand Teton trail crews and other park employees as part of an innovative agreement. Two international volunteers, Aristides Aieta and Juan Jose “Juanjo” Landucci, traveled to Grand Teton to expand their knowledge of trail maintenance and park management as part of a cooperative partnership between the two parks.

The Argentine park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located in the Austral Andes near the border with Chile. Los Glaciares is similar to Grand Teton in that it is a mountainous park containing rugged granite peaks, glacially-carved valleys, and a history of ranching. In 2008, the two national parks developed a “sister park” agreement, authorizing a five-year program of technical exchange and cooperation with the goal of sharing expertise to build excellence in national park management for both agencies—the National Park Service and Argentine Administracion de Parques Nacionales.

According to a release from Grand Teton, the unique partnership between Grand Teton and Los Glaciares began in October 2004 when Los Glaciares served as the host site for an International Conference on Sustainability. Grand Teton employees attending the conference learned that the Argentinean Park needed assistance to address severe impacts to its trail system and backcountry campsites. In March 2008, local resident and climbing guide Rolando Garibotti received funding from the American Alpine Club, via a grant received from Patagonia, Inc., making it possible for several Grand Teton employees to travel to Los Glaciares to share their professional expertise and guidance.

The Grand Teton team helped to create a four-year work plan to address extensive erosion on numerous user-created trails, resulting from the impacts of stock animals, visitors (mainly climbers), water, and wind: conditions compounded by the loose morainal and glacial soils common throughout the park. Their recommended improvements, including relocation and rehabilitation of poorly located trails and campsites, were designed to mitigate the adverse impacts to resources and enhance visitors’ experiences in the South American park.

This winter, Grand Teton’s trail supervisor and other staff will make a third trip to Los Glaciares with direction and assistance provided by project coordinator Garibotti. The budding partnership has become an educational and beneficial endeavor for all of the participants—on both continents.

“This international partnership is a wonderful outreach effort, allowing us to assist and educate a park with similar topography and management issues,” said Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott. “The program also provides a valuable opportunity for Grand Teton’s staff to learn from our counterparts in Argentina about their particular management challenges and resource impacts. The lessons we learn from one another will improve park operations in these separate, but similar, parts of the world.”