Cody to plow east entrance to Yellowstone

Mar 15, 2013

Credit David Koch

The effects of automatic spending cuts or sequestration are being felt in the Cowboy State. Because of the automatic spending cuts Yellowstone has been forced to cut 1.75 million dollars from their operating budget. That has caused Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk to delay plowing operations within the park, a move that has upset some gateway communities and caused others to find a solution. Cody officials have been working hard to find a way to open the East Gate on time despite the federal government. From Cody David Koch has more

DAVID KOCH: Leaders in the Yellowstone gateway community of Cody are plowing ahead with a plan to open on May 3rd. The Cody Chamber of Commerce called an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the proposition of plowing roads along the parks east entrance after Gov Mead said he will provide equipment and labor from the Wyoming department of transportation to clear snow

GOVERNOR MEAD: What I have told those communities if they have a way to come up with the money and they can pay for the manpower and equipment that we'll provide the manpower and the equipment but I just don't feel comfortable using state dollars to do that. So we are looking at Jackson and Cody and see if they come up with the money and if the do with private donations or otherwise we'll try to help out that way.

DAVID KOCH: There appears to be a lot of support for finding a way to plow the east entrance in Yellowstone. Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk has said if Cody can pull off such an effort and be part of a solution than the park is willing to meet those efforts halfway.

DAN WENK: If Cody can do that and is willing to do that it's a great opportunity for the community of Cody and actually for Wyoming. I have sat down and talked to a number of the elected officials in the area and business leaders we talked about this possibility I am certainly am open to it I have said we would certainly allow this to happen if we can do that if we can do that meet somewhere in the middle and open it sooner I have absolutely committed that we will maintain the road and we will keep it open and we would be willing to open the road as soon as the snow plows could meet in the middle

DAVID KOCH: Cody Chamber of commerce executive Director Scott Balyo has been instrumental in leading efforts with area representatives to work out a solution..

SCOTT BALYO: Representatives have been working with the governors office and with the park service to determine if there is a solution to getting the east road plowed so we can open on May 3rd

DAVID KOCH: After calling an emergency meeting of the Cody Chamber their membership has decided there is a solution. They’ve decided on an ambitious plan to raise the money, so that plowing can begin on time…

SCOTT BALYO: Essentially what we need to do by April 1st is raise $100,000 so that WYDOT can plow up the east road in order to be open on May 3rd which is our traditional opening day, if were able to do that we can avoid the two week delay that's in place currently because of sequestration, so that's why were attempting to raise the money.

DAVID KOCH: It is estimated that the East gate would have lost 10,000 cars entering into the park because of a two week delay and the local economies would lose close to 2 million dollars in revenue. Beyond that there would be a ripple effect through out the state…

SCOTT BALYO: We looked at the number from the previous years years in terms of traffic volume through the east gate during the first two weeks and determined there’s a two million dollar economic impact on the local economy and beyond that there’s a ripple effect that occurs too, if people cancel their plans early in the season they might not reschedule. So, we look at the potential business that was going to be lost kind of the lack of confidence it would install in people if they thought they could not get through the park and we just felt this is something we should step up and do on behalf of our members and the Cody community.

DAVID KOCH : The Cody Chamber has taken their first step in raising the needed $100,000 for plowing operations by announcing an open the gate fund that people can donate to and pledging to match outside donations by up to $50,000.Within hours of announcing the plan to plow the East entrance to Yellowstone the Cody Chamber reported over $20,000 dollars in donations. For more on the plan and the fund raising efforts you can go online to codychamber.org

For Wyoming Public Radio in Cody, I'm David Koch.