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YELLOWSTONE OR BUST: Thanks to a collaborative effort between state, federal and private entities, Wyoming ensures America’s National Treasure opens on time

Wyoming has set an example of how to deal with federal budget cuts by putting into action the “Code of the West.” Simply put, this “Code” consists of behaviors and rules that center around hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land.

As Yellowstone National Park struggled with the nearly $1.8 million budget cut due to sequestration and ways they could alleviate the impact on visitors and gateway communities, they chose to delay plowing roads this spring; which in turn would have delayed the opening of the East Gate from Cody and the South Gate from Jackson by two weeks.

“The delays would not have been good for our local or state economy,” said Scott Balyo, executive director of the Cody Chamber of Commerce, “Almost immediately upon hearing that the East Gate would not open on time we began working with local and state partners to find a solution.”

Governor Matt Mead along with mayors and private businesses in the gateway communities of Cody and Jackson met to discuss possible solutions. Collectively they agreed that the potential revenue loss from a delay would have real financial consequences, especially on small business owners.

Governor Matt Mead led the discussion by saying, “We value our national parks as the true assets they are, not only to Wyoming’s economy, but to the nation’s economy. Yellowstone is internationally recognized and by delaying the opening we not only lose the opportunity to generate millions in revenue but we lose the opportunity to host visitors who might be experiencing this natural wonder for the first time.”

Gateway communities in particular are an integral component of the national parks system and rely heavily on the traffic generated from their national and international draw. In addition to providing a supporting role, these communities provide air service, lodging, restaurants, outfitter and guide services and other activities that enhance and enrich the national park experience.

Jeff Golightly, executive director with the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce reiterated, “Jackson Hole as a community takes stewardship of our national parks very seriously. The idea that our nation’s first national park would not open on time for the world to enjoy was something we felt compelled to avoid. The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board and the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce felt it was our responsibility to protect our local tourism economy so we backed the plan right away by committing one time funds.”

Governor Mead offered equipment and personnel to assist with plowing efforts while the gateway communities pooled their resources, began fundraising and came up with money to fund the operation. Wyoming’s entrances to Yellowstone National Park will open as previously scheduled. The East Gate from Cody will open on May 3, 2013 and the South Gate from Jackson will open on May 10, 2013. These opening dates are still dependent on weather and road conditions. All visitors are encouraged to check the 24-hour road information line prior to traveling: 307-344-2117.

Superintendent Dan Wenk agreed to start plowing from inside the park while Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) crews make their way from the east and south gates to complete the snowplowing operations. WYDOT plows are donning a large banner that reads “Yellowstone or Bust” based around a summer road trip campaign that the Wyoming Office of Tourism is currently rolling out. WYDOT began plowing at the East Gate on April 1 and the South Gate on April 8. The Wyoming Office of Tourism is holding an online Yellowstone or Bust Sweepstakes for people who want to guess the date and time when WYDOT plows meet the Yellowstone National Park plows. The prize is an iPad, encouraging visitors to use the gadget to plan their trip to Wyoming.

Diane Shober, Director of the Wyoming Office of Tourism attests, “Wyoming represents the iconic cowboy and not just because we’re a Western state, but because cowboys stand for something, they are entrepreneurs and they live by the simple basic values that lie at the heart of the cowboy way. This is what the “Wyoming, Forever West” brand is all about.” As the Wyoming Office of Tourism gets ready to launch their national summer campaign, the goal remains to promote Wyoming as a vacation destination to domestic and international visitors while increasing revenue for stakeholders and the state of Wyoming. 

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