Gov. Matt Mead has summoned Grand Teton National Park officials to a 45-minute meeting today after they disappointed him by proposing to limit traffic on the park’s rural Moose-Wilson Road.
Grand Teton Superintendent David Vela on Oct. 29 proposed controlling traffic as the preferred alternative among options being considered to manage crowding and protect resources, including grizzly bears. Just 13 days earlier, Mead had asked Vela not to identify a preferred alternative, saying it would constrain public comments, among other things.
Rebuffed, Mead then wrote that he was “disappointed” with the Park Service and that it should “improve communications” with state and local entities known as “cooperating agencies.” His office on Thursday invited elected Jackson and Teton County officials to Monday’s meeting in Cheyenne, along with state agencies such as WYDOT and the Park Service.
Mead also invited the Teton Village Resort Association, a tax-collecting district with an elected board that oversees utilities for the Teton Village commercial core. Teton Village is at one end of the road section in question. Grand Teton had earlier rejected that group’s request to be a cooperating agency. The governor’s staff would not let a representative of conservation groups attend the meeting, but said the representative could meet with state officials later.
Moose-Wilson Road short but important
Although the Moose-Wilson Road is only an 8-mile-long winding, narrow byway, its use, or overuse, has provoked a community-wide debate in Jackson Hole. Park critics say Grand Teton is cutting off public access, contrary to its mission, and is endangering visitors by not constructing a non-motorized path along the corridor. The plan to limit traffic would see vehicles waiting in line at two entrance stations, with attendant pollution from idling cars, they say.
A chorus of conservation voices supports Vela and traffic limits however. From that perspective, commercial interests at Teton Village and real estate developers in the neighborhood are using the sensitive park environment as a community transportation network, contrary to the Park Service mission to preserve its resources. Teton County should instead consider building a bridge over the Snake River just south of Grand Teton National Park to complete its transportation network.
Teton Village Resort Association director Melissa Turley said she’ll first try to understand the governor’s expectations for cooperating agencies as she attends the meeting by telephone. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort President Jerry Blann will represent TVA as its elected treasurer.
“I’ll continue to share our hope we could come to a plan for the Moose-Wilson corridor that fulfills all of the Park Service mission — protecting resources and wildlife — as well as providing for the enjoyment of the American people,” she said in a telephone interview Sunday. An important point is “to focus on the access of American people to our national park as well as the safety of visitors.” She said she hoped the park would continue to consider mass-transit, including shuttle busses with bicycle racks to accommodate cyclists seeking to use cycle paths in Grand Teton.
Some not invited to Cheyenne meeting
Former Wyoming Rep. Pete Jorgensen said he was told he could not attend the meeting of cooperators and select others, but could meet with state officials later. He told the governor’s office he also has ties to the National Parks Conservation Association and Sierra Club and would reiterate their support for the park’s traffic plan.
“In my opinion it’s the economic interest of Teton Villagers and developers,” who seek unfettered access to the road, he said Sunday. He said the Moose-Wilson Road is oversubscribed because it cuts the distance from Teton Village to the Jackson Hole Airport in half and avoids congestion on Teton County highways and in Jackson, he said.
Teton County should develop its own transportation system and not impose its problems on the park, he said. Jackson Hole officials should adopt the position, “We’re not going to be a parasitic gateway community,” Jorgensen said.
Although Mead criticized Grand Teton for not giving cooperating agencies their due, the Park Service said it had incorporated many different views over a long planning period. “The 674 page document was developed by an interdisciplinary team of NPS managers, scientists, and staff in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, State of Wyoming, Teton County, and Town of Jackson,” park officials said when they released the draft Moose-Wilson Road environmental impact statement for public comment Oct. 29.
The section of the road in question is closed in the winter. In summer it completes a loop around southern Jackson Hole. The park plan would limit the number of vehicles on the road at one time. Once the limit is reached, other motorists would be held at entrance stations near Teton Village and at Moose. Then, when one vehicle left the 8-mile section, another would be let in.
Grand Teton will take public comment on the draft plan through Dec. 29. The park hosts an informational and interactive public open house from 4 to 7 p.m Dec. 9 at the Teton County Library in Jackson.
October letter: Gov Mead “disappointed” with NPS plan:
September letter: Gov. Mead wants NPS study changed: