Nearly 70 more nightly rooms eventually will be available in the Old Faithful area at Yellowstone National Park as National Park Service officials have agreed to convert 67 cabins from concessionaire employee housing to rental units.
As part of the deal, a dormitory will be built to house concessionaire employees in the area.
A Finding of No Significant Impact allowing repurposing the cabins to provide an increased number of affordable visitor lodging units at Old Faithful and construction of the employee dormitory for displaced employees was signed by Park Service Intermountain Region Director John Wessels earlier this week.
An Environmental Assessment that analyzed three alternatives was released for public review and comment in January 2012.
Among the highlights of the approved preferred alternative:
* Provide for additional affordable lodging options in Yellowstone.
* Rehabilitate the interior of the cabin units to include new floor coverings, wall coverings, electrical systems, bathroom fixtures, and gas heaters.
* A number of the cabins would be made accessible.
* Enhanced safety and improved accessibility of pathways to the cabin area. Many of the asphalt walkways within the cabin area are old and deteriorating with numerous rough spots, uneven surfaces, raveling edges, and missing pavement. These walkways would be replaced or repaired as part of this project.
* Construction of an employee dormitory in the Old Faithful administrative area for employees displaced from the repurposed cabin units.
The project will proceed when funding becomes available, with the cost of the project to be determined when detailed designs are completed.
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 will return 67 of them to their "original historic use as visitor accommodations."
At the same time, they will build the employee dorm and a 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.