Visitors to Yellowstone National Park safely see a grizzly bear from their cars in 2019. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Yellowstone National Park reopens

VISITATION DURING MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND COMPARABLE TO LAST YEAR

The message of constantly changing weather was driven home on Memorial Day Weekend in Yellowstone National Park (YNP). A large snowstorm crossed major mountain passes and caused closures of some entrances during the beginning of the highly anticipated weekend.

Still, for Sunday and Monday park officials determined that visitation at the east and south entrances – Wyoming’s entrances that have been open since May 18 – were 97% of 2019.

While some predict it will be a quiet summer due to lingering concerns for COVID-19, other experts are anticipating a strong drive- market as people shy away from airplane travel.

Last week, Gov. Steve Bullock held a press call discussing the responsibilities of community members and visitors with the June 1 opening of Montana YNP entrances.

Bullock encourages visitors to help keep Montana communities safe.

That responsibility does not fall on the shoulders of tourists alone. Bullock noted that while it is good to have a beer with your neighbor on a porch, it is best to make that happen from a distance.

Under guidance from experts and public health officials he encourages the continued use of masks in public places, diligence with hand hygiene and appropriate social distancing.

“The opening of Montana’s entrances coincides with the Governor’s lifting of out-of- state travel restrictions and will provide visitor access to all five entrances of Yellowstone National Park,” A YNP press release said.

As Gallatin City-County Public Health Officer Matt Kelley noted: YNP gateway communities will be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 as visitors – the lifeblood of tourism driven communities – bring their pocketbooks, and also risk.

“Yellowstone National Park is an incredible place for Americans to enjoy the great outdoors,” secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt said in a press release. “It’s great that we’ve been able to work with the Governor of Montana to safely restore access to the remaining entrances.”

YNP Superintendent Cam Sholly said park officials will continue to work closely with Gov. Bullock and his team as they progress through “this reopening sequence.”

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