Yellowstone National Park Officials Working on Management Plan for Lake Area

Yellowstone officials are beginning work on a new management plan for the Lake area of the park. The plan encompasses the Bridge Bay area (top photo), Fishing Bridge, and Lake Village, where the Lake Hotel stands. NPS photo.

One of the most gorgeous places in Yellowstone National Park is the area surrounding Yellowstone Lake. There a mix of wilderness-quality vistas and the self-contained Lake Village offer a varied experience for park visitors. How should the Park Service manage this mix in the years to come?

That's a question park officials now are taking up through the preparation of an environmental assessment that will chart the future for how visitors and natural resources in the areas surrounding Lake Village, Fishing Bridge, and Bridge Bay are managed.

Currently, there's a wide array of things to do and experience in the area, whether it's fishing, hiking, boating, watching wildlife, or just relaxing in the charming Lake Hotel.

Identifying ways to protect the wealth of resources in the area, while enhancing the visitor experience and accommodating park operational needs, will require significant evaluation and analysis, park officials said in a release.

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, Yellowstone officials will prepare an environmental assessment for the Lake area.

"The purpose of the EA is to provide an increased understanding of resources through conducting and documenting resources, focusing on resource protection, and addressing visitor connections to the resources," the release explained. "The process will evaluate alternative proposals and potential impacts to multiple resources, including natural, cultural, and scenic resources, as well as visitor use and experience, park operations, and public health and safety.

"The first step is to solicit public suggestions and comments during what is known as the scoping period. Any interested individual, organization, or agency can provide thoughtful, relevant information or suggestions for consideration by the NPS before the draft environmental assessment is prepared and made available for public review and comment. Individuals, groups, and agencies have until August 6, 2010, to submit written comments on the purpose, need and objectives, and the issues and alternatives they would like considered in the new plan. Scoping for the Lake Area Comprehensive Plan concludes August 6."

Open house meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20, at Lake in the Mess Hall; Wednesday, July 21, in Cody, Wyoming, at the Holiday Inn; and Wednesday, July 28, in Bozeman, Montana, at the Bozeman Public Library. A short presentation will be followed by an open house at each meeting location.

Additional details on the proposal and an electronic form to submit comments on the internet can be found at the National Park Service’s Planning, Environmental and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yell, or by contacting the Comprehensive Planning and Design Office, Lake Area Comprehensive Plan, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.

Written comments may be submitted through the PEPC website, in person, or by mail. Comments will not be accepted over the phone, by fax, or e-mail. All public comments must be received or postmarked by midnight MDT, August 6.

Comments

Everything possible should be done to confront the NPS's unwillingness to challenge Xanterra's horrible management of parks nationwide. They are emptying the pockets of Americans who are oblivious to the choices they have as the owners of the parks as to who should be managing the parks.

Xanterra is equivalent to BP in their intent to rob us of our national treasures in the name of private enterprise. I would rather see a franchisee's Motel 6 sign at the entrance to Yellowstone than allow Xanterra to earn one more dollar from another American.

Force the NPS to review all of the operations on a yearly basis not a decade basis. Xanterra and other operators should know they can lose their contracts if it does not provide superior services to the public. The NPS management is not the client, the public is the client; and by all public reviews, they are routinely unhappy with Xanterra.

Do it now.

Anonymous,

Any chance you could provide some examples to support your criticisms? I ask that not as a defender of Xanterra, but rather to see if others agree with you.

We've wanted to develop a lodging survey that readers could complete, and short of that your comments could move the discussion in that direction. They also could give Xanterra officials something specific to respond to.

My reply would be to simply look at any traveler's review site like TripAdvisor.com. It's filled with comments, critiques and revelations about Xanterra. Look at Yellowstone for instance: bad food, bad service, bad maintenance of facilities.

It's naive to imagine that Xanterra is unaware of the problems. That have multi-year contracts (10-year contracts) that insulates them from ever having to address the issues with which you might want to confront them.

Until you threaten them with lost of income on a regular basis, they have little reason to change their management style.

Xanterra appears to be environmentally conscious to the public, but due to a static, outdated system of bureaucracy, many environmentally unfriendly actions take place every day.

For example: Due to simple laziness, the Mallard dorm bathroom has been broken and locked since the beginning of the season. I noticed a week after it had been locked that security left the bathroom lights on (truly a horrible waste of energy). I went to security and informed them of this promptly. They dismissed my comment and (regardless of how much money it would have saved the company), did absolutely nothing to turn off the lights. An almost identical situation occurred with a very leaky faucet in the lodge. The faucets drip continuously day after day and no one seems to care.

Due to Xanterra's poor treatment of its employees, morale and loyalty is certainly at a low. The best manager in the kitchen, Patrick, was recently fired for a single act of unprofessional behavior. Other than this one act, Patrick was a spectacular manager that listened to his employees and was committed to making both the customers and the employees happy. Xanterra's firing of him has caused major turbulence and unrest in the employees and as a result, there has been a dramatic drop in morale and work ethic. I see more vandalism, theft and apathy now more than ever. This morale drop surely has had an effect on service as servers are angry and bitter more often.

Xanterra's philosophy of service is based solely on appearances. On the first day of training in the kitchen, we were told that the food does not need to be healthy nor does it need to taste good as long as it looks delicious. Since the cooks are so busy constructing a veneer for the food, they have little time to actually prepare anything. Almost all of the food comes straight from packages and nothing is real. Mostly everything is prepared by adding water and butter (a LOT of butter). The customers don't care however, because the food looks good.
This model of service goes beyond the kitchen and into the rest of Xanterra's operations. Novelty bear soaps are sold to customers for an obscene price. The soap is hollow, but the customers do not know that before they buy it. Also, the international employees sign an agreement to pay to come to work for Xanterra and make very little money (3-4$ an hour after deductions). This makes it nearly impossible for these employees to make a profit from working and are forced to work long hours and have very little time to enjoy the park for which they came to see in the first place.
Xanterra is a company based on cheap veneers and cut corners. The low morale trickles down from the top of the pyramid, causing nearly every employee to work out of fear and indentured servitude. This is not how our national parks should be run.

WOW, I wanted to work in yellowstone or crater lake, but after reading the endless bad comments about xanterra, I think I'm going to write my congressman.

Sad to hear of all the problems there. I'm a EMT in a big city and I have seriously thought of looking for a position in a Nat'l Park just to be near all that beauty but I will not risk my peace of mind (no one should have to). I would think that after continually being treated like that one would close their eyes to the beauty that is our inherent right as citizens and human beings. I don't want that to happen to me.

Yellowstone workers I truly look up to you but I wish you were not treated as such.

This year will be my eleventh summer working in Yellowstone N.P. I have worked for Xanterra since they took over from TW services years ago and I can honestly say they have treated me fairly and with respect. On at least two occasions, they went way out of their was to accommodate my personal problems. I think that some of the comments made on this site are from people who couldn't get along anywhere. Maturity will go a long way to making a job enjoyable. Yellowstone is a wonderful place to work. And working there is one of the few ways to actually live in the park and really enjoy it.
Don't believe some of the distorted comments that a few bitter people have made here.

Thanks for that! I just applied today and after reading these comments was begining to fret.

As a big (very big ) supporter of the visitor experience in one of the largest visited National Parks that Xanterra operates in I understand quite well where Xanterra could improve. I do not believe the present management of Xanterra really gets it. I do however have great respect for the fairly new owner of Xanterra, Mr. Philip Anschuts. He's a busy guy but I've seen examples where he's gone the extra mile quite alone to lead in a very positive manor to make an impact far beyond the status quo. I am a fan and am hopeful!

Just spent a night at Canyon Village and was totally disgusted with Xanterra. Actually walked out of the formal dining room last evening after we could not get waited on. When I questioned the "manager", he informed me that they were very shorthanded and couldn't get HR to hire any replacements! I did ask for a comment card but then realized that I didn't trust Xanterra enough to fill one out. NPS is the organization that I need to complain to.

We then went down to the cafeteria where I voiced my complaints to the cashier and he readily offered that Xanterra mangement "s*cked". Off to the grill this morning for breakfast, when the young waitress told us that they only had one grill operating because of a freezer problem and the wait would be very long. We chose to leave, but as we got us she asked me not to repeat what I told her since her manager didn't want that information out. She just didn't want us to have to wait so long. Fantastic employee, terrible manager.

What I'd really like to know is whether the NPS manager who is responsible for administering the Xanterra contract ever gets out to see for him/herself how they are performing. What kind of performance metrics does the NPS hold Xanterra to, and what are the financial penalties or rewards for not meeting/exceeding them?

Tonight we are at Jackson Lake Lodge, and the experience is totally different (and better). Wonder why that might be?