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OUTDOORS: Yellowstone, other national parks close, Glacier, Beaver Creek Park still open for now

COVID-19 continues to cause sweeping closures, even in the great outdoors

 

March 26, 2020

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

A view of Beaver Creek Park south of Havre on Tuesday. Due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, many of America's national parks, including Yellowstone have closed to the public recently, meaning even outdoor recreation is being put on hold by the crisis.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks made a difficult decision on Tuesday, but, given the continued rise in COVID-19 cases, and to protect the small gateway communities in the areas, it was the right call no doubt.

The decision to close Yellowstone, the world's first national park, and neighboring Grand Teton came after pressure from state and local officials. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon were especially vocal about the need to close Yellowstone.

"The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks," Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in a statement.

The parks join a growing list of national park sites from New York to California that have closed, including the Statue of Liberty and Alcatraz. Rocky Mountain National Park closed indefinitely on Friday after a local mayor asked Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to do so to protect Estes Park, a gateway town where park visitors in pursuit of ice cream and souvenirs crowd the sidewalks during nice weather. Yosemite, whose striking features like Half-Dome draws about 4 million visitors a year, closed indefinitely on Friday at the request of local health officials to all people except park employees, concessionaires and residents with homes inside the park's boundaries.

Bernhardt had promised last week that at parks still open, entrance fees would be temporarily waived to make it easier for people to get outdoors and "implement some social distancing." He gave individual park superintendents the power to close or modify operations to adhere to health safety recommendations from the White House and Centers for Disease Control.

Other parks, like Glacier National Park, that remain open have closed shuttles, campgrounds, visitor centers and some trails to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Glacier's facilities are mostly closed this time of year anyway, and park use is minimal. But, the park could certainly change its decision to remain open as visitation starts to rise later in the spring. The iconic Going to the Sun Road will not open before June 22, so peak visitation isn't expected to begin before then.

Around the remainder of Montana, most state and county parks are open, including Beaver Creek Park south of Havre.

 

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