Posted by: Scott | Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sylvan Pass Open?

Closed National Park?OK folks, get ready ’cause this is just going to drive you insane. Back in March, YNP Supt. Suzanne Lewis tried to tame the lions den at Cody Auditorium by announcing that the East Gate was going to open early compared to years past. Crews have had great success at getting roads cleaned and May 4 was slated for the opening of the East Gate (and presumably, the same for Sylvan Pass). Mind you, this was painted as a dangerous project due to all the ice-pack (several inches thick) that forms on the roads due to grooming for the (evil) snowcoaches and snowmobiles.

Later on, it is reported that this is the last year for construction of the multi-million dollar upgrade of Sylvan Pass (and all of Cody–including the non-religious–shouted AMEN!!!!).  The project did suffer a couple of setbacks with a forest fire that closed operations one summer and then the following summer a mudslide forced rebuilding the roadbed and thus delayed progress. Anyway, this is the last year for construction on Sylvan Pass. The first 20 days will see the typical construction schedule of 8 AM-8 PM with 30 minute delays. On May 25, the gate goes 24/7 with 30 minute delays. That is pretty cool for a community that depends on three months of lots of people coming through to see Yellowstone. Cody has had to be it’s own PR machine explaining the gate closures since YNP’s PR group didn’t tackle the task too well. We look forward to the day of being able to say “The gate is open,” excluding that early summer snow storm of course.

It gets better though. There were representatives from the Shut Out of Yellowstone group on Speak Your Piece today. The big topic was write those letters!!! There are a number of topics that you can cover (including the Americans with Disabilities Act and how the preferred plan discriminates against certain handicap individuals). By the way, Shut out of Yellowstone is endorsing Winter Use Plan Option 4, the best plan for all gateway communities.

Then a call came in. One of the local merchants relayed a discussion she had with two NPS officials that came into her store. She found out they came from Yellowstone. She remarked that the drive must have been rather long having to go up through Mammoth, over to the Northeast Gate, through Cooke City and over and finally on down to Cody. Long drive? Nope. They took Sylvan Pass and out the East Gate. Not much snowpack on the road. The Pass was pretty clear, maybe a difficult spot or two, but easy to navigate. Sorta the opposite picture provided by Supt. Lewis just a couple weeks ago. Put their employer aside, why is it that they came over a closed pass?

More discussion ensues and another caller calls in. This one went to Pahaska to observe the famous griz that dwells in the vicinity. She was on the side of the road watching and didn’t see anything. A car with Colorado plates comes from the direction of the Park. Driver pulls over and asks what the lady had seen. Until this guy, nothing. Something that you have to  know is that their is a construction-type of barrier that closes off the highway at the historic lodge built by Buffalo Bill. Then there is a short distance of highway before reaching the gate. She inquired if he had driven up to the gate and just turned around. No, he had just exited the park through the East Gate via Sylvan Pass.

Don’t know how or why this is being allowed to happen (Sylvan and East Gate don’t open until May 4 and it’s still April!)  but something just doesn’t add up.

Tack on to this a recent report from the Cody Enterprise. Turns ot that Sylvan is not the only place of concern when it comes to avalanches. Not only that, for some time, the “other place” (ahem, the South Gate) has not had avalanche mitigation in spite of snowcoaches and even snow plows  getting trapped in avalanches. What’s the Park Management doing about it? Absolutely nothing. Not only that, The affected route is not under any threat to be closed. Yet, Sylvan Pass has a 30 year history of successful avalanche mitigation and it’s the one being targeted for closure.

One caller expressed an opinion I’ve had of this situation for some time and that is what is it that Yellowstone does not like about Cody? Cody has done nothing but promote Yellowstone and talk about how you need to make more than just a day trip out of seeing the park. What happens? We get stabbed in the back. At least that’s the perception at the bottom of Sylvan Pass. Maybe it’s time for Yellowstone to hire some PR folks from Cody.

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