Yellowstone National Park, with its geothermal plumbing, amazing wildlife diversity, and spectacular vistas, is one of the most magnificent landscapes on Earth.
Not surprisingly, during the summer months its lodges can't hold as many people as would like to spend the night surrounded by this park.
That problem could be eased just a bit under a proposal to boost lodging space at the Old Faithful Complex by turning 67 cabins that once were eyed for removal into nightly units during the summer season.
Some might grapple with the park's preferred plan, as it also calls for construction of a dormitory and 65-car parking lot that combined would cover a bit more than an acre. At a time when the National Park Service is striving to reduce its overall carbon footprint and be a leader in battling human-caused climate change, this proposal might seem to be at odds with those goals.
Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash on Friday acknowledged those concerns, and also noted that, “We’re still trying to find a way to accommodate visitors and employees.”
To better understand what's at play, it's good to read a bit of the history surrounding lodging at Old Faithful. Back in 1974, when the Yellowstone Master Plan was adopted, it envisioned removing the cabins associated with the Old Faithful Lodge while boosting the number at Grant Village. Under the Grant Village Development Concept Plan adopted in 1979, 700 lodging units were to be added to Grant Village. However, according to the EA, only 300 units have actually been built.
When the Old Faithful Development Concept Plan arrived in 1985, it, too, called for moving the cabins to Grant Village. That move, however, never occurred.
Now, instead of removing the cabins that have been used as housing for concessionaire employees for about a decade, park officials are proposing to return 67 of them to their "original historic use as visitor accommodations."
At the same time, they are proposing to build an employee dorm and related parking lot on 1.08 acres in the administrative area of Old Faithful, which is just west of the area's access roads and away from the nightly lodging rental units.
"The original (1985) move was designed to shift where lodging occurred in the park, it wasn’t to eliminate lodging," said Mr. Nash. "We’re recognizing that we never made that change. We believe there’s a desire on the part of the public to again utilize this medium-priced lodging. And we’re really looking at this as a way to separate staff housing from visitors to a greater degree. That’s really the thrust that we see to this.”
While the park spokesman said some might be concerned over a parking lot for 65 vehicles, he pointed out that on an average summer day 30,000 visitors enter the park.
“I don’t discount the impact of as many as 65 more vehicles," Mr. Nash said. "I’m just trying to put it into context.”
The proposal, outlined in the park's Old Faithful Cabin Repurposing and Dormitory Construction Plan Environmental Assessment, is open for public comment through February 26.
The Environmental Assessment and an electronic form to submit comments can be found on the internet at the National Park Service Planning, Environment, and Public Comment web site.
A hard copy of the EA is available upon request by calling (307) 344-2221, or by writing to the Old Faithful Cabin Repurposing Plan EA, National Park Service, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.
Written comments may be submitted through the PEPC web site, in person, or by mail. Comments will not be accepted by phone, fax, or e-mail. All public comments must be received or postmarked by midnight, February 26.
Once comments are analyzed, the National Park Service will make a decision on the final plan.