The Wyoming entrance gates to Yellowstone National Park will open on Monday, May 18, at noon. Grand Teton National Park plans to open its gates at the same time.
Both parks will limit access to entrance stations, roads, restrooms, some gas stations, trails and boardwalks. No commercial buses are allowed in the parks. Yellowstone's lower loop, which includes Old Faithful, will be the only area of the park open. The northern part remains closed as well as all three of the Montana gates.
Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said only 30 percent of its visitors come through the Wyoming gates.
"[It] will give our team in the park an ability to refine some of the mitigation practices we need to work on," said Sholly. "And can help us understand what visitors returning to the park and some of the gateways in Wyoming might have as far as impact on those gateways."
The other 70 percent enter through the three Montana entrance gates. Sholly said he's working with Montana Governor Steve Bullock to figure out a best time to reopen those gates.
Sholly said the decision to open the Wyoming entrances was partly because the state stopped its recommendation for out-of-staters to quarantine for two weeks. Montana and Idaho still have this restriction in place. But he also said it's due to the teamwork in the state.
"Gov. Gordon is directing substantial resources of the state to those counties that surround Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons to help purchase personal protective equipment, help with testing, and hospital capacity if necessary."
This is the first phase of both parks' reopening. Sholly said he's hopeful that the Montana gates will be able to open soon. But with the limited number of employees, the park won't be able to handle the usual number of visitors. Yellowstone is working on increasing the amount of testing of its employees, especially those that are in contact with the public, as Sholly said it's important to protect workers from the virus.
Sholly also said it is especially up to visitors to respect and practice social distancing so the parks don't have to move backwards and start restricting openings once more.
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