A multi-million-dollar plan to rehabilitate the Grand Teton National Park's Jenny Lake area, with improvements to hiking, camping, and boating areas, has been approved by the National Park Service's Intermountain Region director.
Under the plan, upwards of $16 million will be spent rehabilitating hiking trails on the western side of Jenny Lake, improving the visitor drop-off and interpretation areas on the eastern side of the lake, improving the dock area, adding restrooms, improving the campground, and the public boat launch area. None of these actions "will have a significant impact on park operations or the following resources: ethnographic, archaeological or cultural resources, including historic structures and cultural landscapes; geologic resources and vegetation; wildlife, including special status species; wilderness and natural soundscapes; and visitor experience," a park release said. "These changes will, however, mitigate safety concerns, protect natural and cultural resources, and improve visitors' experience of this area. The NPS, the Wyoming Historic Preservation officer, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation signed a programmatic agreement outlining stipulations that Grand Teton National Park will apply to mitigate any adverse effects to cultural resources as proposed in the selected alternative."
Last summer Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Grand Teton National Park Foundation President Leslie Mattson jointly announced the Inspiring Journeys Campaign, which is intended to raise $13 million towards the project, while the Park Service will contribute $3 million from cyclic maintenance funding. At the time, $5 million in private funding had already been obtained.
One of the most popular destinations for Grand Teton visitors, the Jenny Lake area sits at the base of the Teton Range. Its trails offer visitors hikes to easily accessible, yet unforgettably beautiful, backcountry destinations such as Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and Cascade Canyon. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, many of the trails in the Jenny Lake area have been compromised by poor drainage, erosion, and heavy use.
The park's plan will address "aging and/or poorly designed trails and walkways that do not meet current trail and accessibility standards; aging and failing bridges in the backcountry; user-created trails with resource degradation; compacted soils and bare ground in destination locations; limited self-guided interpretation and orientation opportunities; outdated water and wastewater systems; and inadequate restroom facilities."
The selected alternative is broken into two distinct areas: front-country sites and backcountry locations. The front-country portion of the Jenny Lake renewal initiative will make improvements to the south Jenny Lake complex, Jenny Lake overlook, and String Lake outlet. The renewal plan targets improvement of visitor circulation throughout the south Jenny Lake complex and creates enhanced visitor orientation and interpretation. The plan will also provide accessible trails, furnish additional restrooms, and rehabilitate the water and wastewater systems within the south Jenny Lake area. Backcountry improvements will include rehabilitation of the west boat dock, improvements to the Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point viewing areas, and rehabilitation of trails connecting these two locations. The plan calls for replacement of unsustainable bridges and other infrastructure, as well as the improvement of circulation and crowding within two miles of the west boat dock. Key areas addressed in the backcountry portion of the plan include Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and the Cascade Creek crossing.
Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the park's primary fundraising partner, will help finance this project through its Inspiring Journeys campaign. This signature initiative to raise funds for the renewal of the Jenny Lake area will also help highlight the National Park Service's 2016 centennial milestone.
Implementation of the Jenny Lake Plan/EA is due to begin this spring. The full plan and FONSI can be reviewed online here.