Businesses and local residents in Cody and Jackson, Wyoming, have raised almost $170,000 to plow the roads into Yellowstone National Park so that the park can open to tourists on time.
Normally around March 4, Yellowstone begins hiring crews to plow the park's roads. Because of the sequester, which took effect March 1, the park was forced to cut $1.8 million from its budget. Park Superintendent Dan Wenk decided to save some money by allowing the spring sun to do some of the melting and open the park a couple of weeks late, which would have saved $250,000.
Businesses in the area pressed for an alternative because they could lose millions of dollars in tourist revenue, on which the region is heavily dependent. They are working with the local governments and the state plows to open the park's roads on May 3, instead of the new date, May 17.
Leaders from the community warned that this shouldn't set a precedent for the future. Wenk assured them that he would work for a long-term solution.
“I have told [the business communities] that this is a one-year solution and if these cuts of the sequestration are continued into the fiscal 2014 budget, we will have to evaluate all options for future years.”
Wenk has said he would consider closing Yellowstone to winter visitors if sequestration stays in effect next year. Fewer than 100,000 snowmobilers and other tourists trek to the park in winter.The park is finding other savings to cover the cuts through a hiring freeze, a reduced seasonal workforce, and leaner visitors services.