Yellowstone National Park Exploring Improvements to Bechler Region

Yellowstone National Park officials want to improve the ranger facilities in the Bechler area of the park. NPS photo of Bechler Ranger Station, circa 1930.

Next to the Thorofare region, "Cascade Corner" just might be the most over-looked place in Yellowstone National Park. But park officials aren't overlooking the ranger facilities there, and are embarking on a mission to see how they might be improved.

The area is isolated, as it's not accessible via the main Grand Loop road system that threads through the park's interior. You can only reach it by car if you head towards Ashton, Idaho.

A historic ranger station is the centerpiece of the small administrative area located at the end of a gravel road, 26 miles east of Ashton.

The National Park Service is looking at ways it might improve facilities and services while preserving the historic character of the area that was first developed by the U.S. Army during its administration of the park.

With that in mind, the park is seeking public comment on issues that should be considered in addressing the needs of the facilities and services.

This public comment process is now open and runs through March 4. The plan will look at ideas such as improving parking, utility upgrades, and addressing employee housing needs. The plan will not look at any changes to backcountry access or use of the area outside the area immediately surrounding the Bechler Ranger Station.

Those interested in the plan are invited to participate in an open house scheduled for Tuesday, February 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ashton Community Center, 925 Main Street, in Ashton, Idaho.

Park staff members will analyze the scoping comments and spend the spring and summer writing the Environmental Assessment, which is expected to be released for public review and comment in the fall. A final decision and plan is expected to be completed sometime in late 2011.

Additional details on the proposal and an electronic form to submit comments can be found at this page on the Park Service's website.

Written comments may be submitted through the PEPC website, in person, or by mail (to Bechler Administrative Area Improvement Plan, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190). Comments will not be accepted over the phone, by fax, or e-mail. All public comments must be received or postmarked by midnight MDT, March 4, 2011.

Comments

The housing at Bechler for the rangers is deplorable! The "temporary" atco trailer installed in 1986 was to be for only 2 years, 25 years later it is still there. I guess you could say it is "historical" now as it been there a long time! The trailer sits on wood pilings that look to tumble down the hill, the doors don't shut properly, there are bats living in the ceiling space just a few things. Our NPS rangers deserve to have better housing no matter what NP they are in or where in that NP they are located!

I have been to the Bechler area once and would love to do more exploring of the area. Paving and or improving the Grassy Lake Road would get my vote but it is not in the Park. Mesa falls are also worth looking at outside of Yellostone in Idaho if you are in the area.

I agree that the Bechler area needs some love in the form of improvements. There are a number of cabins (including A-frame) that are rather dilapidated. I used to be a summer ranger and would visit the area on occasion. Oftentimes, I'd almost prefer to stay in a tent than risk getting hantavirus in the cabins! I'm happy to see that there will likely be improvements in this area. However, paving Grassy Lake Road would be a VERY POOR decision in my opinion. The people that really enjoy Bechler enjoy it for the very reason that many don't want that road paved: it is "somewhat inaccessible" for many people because of that road and that is what helps to keep many people out of the area. Slapping asphalt down is going to invite even the laziest of tourists in. I truly think some environments around there just need to be somewhat untouched in the way that Bechler currently remains.


To the National Park Service,

This is my public comment on the plan to upgrade the facilities at Bechler Ranger Station in Yellowstone Park’s southwest cascade corner. I am against it.

I have hiked several times along the Bechler River through the meadow, followed the Firehole River and ended at Old Faithful in Geyser Basin. My four sons who accompanied me on these family outings agree the eleven or so waterfalls along the way are incredible. We love that area and spend several days a year camping and fishing Bechler.

Rarely do we use any facilities at the trail head except to pay fees at the ranger station. There have been very few visitors using this local, one of the reasons we go there, whenever we have started our hikes. For this reason, I do not feel any addition construction should occur in this area and my opinion is no major upgrades should take place. The number of people who travel out of their way from Ashton, Idaho to visit this area, from my experience, is very low and the number of visitors coming over from Flagg Ranch in Wyoming is even smaller.

I’m sure the rational is “Build it and they will come.” Better facilities will attract more paying visitors. Bechler Meadow ranger station and Bechler Falls are way off the beaten path, far from the paved roads leading throngs into Old Faithful. If my feet remember, it is about 17 miles from the Bechler Ranger Station to Old faithful with an increase in elevation of over 2,000 feet. This is not the attraction most visitors to Yellowstone Park come to experience.

Anyone who has spent anytime in Bechler Meadow in the early summer will tell you the mosquitoes are horrendous. Spring waters are so high boardwalks have been built to help navigate across the wet ground. What a wonderful mosquito breading ground exists below that wooden walkway. I guarantee you NO ONE wants to camp in this area from late spring to early fall unless they bring extra blood to transfuse. Again, this is a reason not to put more resources into this area.

Unless the policy has changed, Bechler has also been the repository for “bad bears” In the past, any grizzly bears who invaded Park campgrounds or made a nuisance of themselves somewhere else in Yellowstone Park they were trapped and dropped off in Bechler because of its remoteness and general isolation. What happens now when you mix trouble bears with more campers and their tasty picnic baskets? As it is, I have seen several bears along the trail and I always take extreme precautions to raise my food into a tree or use the facilities put in place by the rangers to keep packs out of bear reach and I keep my camp immaculate.

Lastly, I would like to put out there a selfish reason for opposing expansion of the Bechler Ranger Station, tranquility. I go into the Bechler Meadow area because there are not a lot of other Park visitors, I can get away from the crowds found elsewhere in the Park and because it is one of those rare gems unspoiled by thoughtless sightseers who stop by for only ten minutes and don’t venture far from their car.

Please, leave it as it is. The facilities meet my needs, the needs of my family and have done so for thirty years. Do not expand the buildings and facilities at the Bechler Ranger Station.