The Colter Bay area of Grand Teton National Park long has been a favorite vacationing place for folks. There are charming log cabins for rent, decidedly more rustic tent cabins, a campground, a marina, and a small village of sorts with visitor center, grocery, and restaurant facilities.
But this also is a decidedly dated and weary area of the park, and Grand Teton officials are studying ways to redevelop it with an eye to reducing impacts while also improving the visitor experience.
Through September 13, park staff are taking public comments on a Colter Bay Visitor Services Plan, a document intended to guide decision making for redevelopment and restoration in the vicinity of the Colter Bay Visitor Center, a primary destination on the eastshore of Jackson Lake.
"It has become increasingly difficult to sustainably operate and maintain the visitor center due to its age, condition, and numerous critical system deficiencies," a park release detailing the plan states. "The NPS is also considering changes for nearby parking and vehicular and pedestrian circulation. Proposed changes would mitigate safety concerns, protect natural and cultural resources and improve visitors’ experience of the area."
The plan carries three alternatives, along with a fourth "no action" option.
* Actions proposed in Alternative B (the NPS preferred alternative) include replacement of the existing visitor center with a smaller visitor contact station at a nearby location, changes to vehicular and pedestrian circulation, reduction of passenger vehicle parking spaces, and increase in the number of oversized parking spaces.
* The proposed actions in Alternative C would involve replacement of the existing visitor center with a new, smaller visitor center at a nearby location, substantial change to vehicular and pedestrian circulation, reduction of passenger vehicle parking spaces, and increase in the number of oversized spaces.
The facilities proposed in Alternatives B and C would not accommodate the Vernon Collection; this would be addressed in a future planning process.
* Actions proposed in Alternative D include replacement of the Colter Bay Visitor Center with a new, larger visitor center in the same location, new exhibits and storage area for the Vernon Collection, minor changes to the vehicular and pedestrian circulation, and a small reduction in passenger vehicle parking spaces. The number of oversized parking would not change.
Until recently, the David T. Vernon Collection of American Indian Art was stored and exhibited at the Colter Bay Visitor Center. Laurance Rockefeller gifted this collection to the NPS in 1976, with the condition that it remain in Grand Teton National Park. Because the existing visitor center does not meet NPS museum standards, and therefore the collection was at risk, it was moved to the NPS Western Archeological and Conservation Center in Tucson, Arizona, for treatment and temporary storage.
The collection will remain at WACC until a storage and exhibit facility that meets NPS museum standards is available at Grand Teton.
The Colter Bay Visitor Services Plan/EA is a prerequisite to a subsequent planning effort that Grand Teton will undertake in the next 3 to 5 years to address a new facility that can suitably house the Vernon Collection and accommodate museum storage and curatorial functions within the park.
Copies of the Colter Bay Visitor Services Plan/EA are online at this site or on the park's web site. Hard copies are available at the Colter Bay Visitor Center, the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming and at the Reference Desk in the Teton County Library. There are also a limited number of copies available through the park's Planning Office by calling 307-739-3390.