By Kaitlyn Hart
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ISLAND PARK (eastidahonews.com) – Island Park business owners are beginning to worry as many reservations at hotels, restaurants and activity centers are being canceled due to concerns about damage to the park Yellowstone National after major flooding.
Steve “Dutch” Dutcher, the manager of Sawtelle Mountain Resort in Island Park, told EastIdahoNews.com that he’s dealing with customers who don’t know which roads are open, which businesses are operational and even if it’s worth it. worth trying to go on vacation this year.
“What we’ve seen from our complex is that there’s a kind of frenzy and panic,” says Dutcher. “There are a lot of people cancelling. A lot of people don’t understand what it will actually look like in a week or two weeks, or in a month. »
Yellowstone National Park, which is closed due to extensive historic rainfall damage, takes most of the damage in the area near the north entrance, coming from Montana on US Highway 89.
“There’s significant damage in the park, but it’s mostly in the north,” says Dutcher. “You can still come here, and the entrance may open soon, but you can still enjoy the same forest, wildlife and rivers. It’s just not in the park – it’s adjacent at the park. It’s always exactly the same area.
Business owners and residents are growing increasingly worried as cancellations mount and fears of an economic downturn mount.
“There are a lot of small family businesses in these small towns. There aren’t a ton of big chains, and it’s people’s livelihood, so if everyone cancels, it could really affect and hurt local businesses and the local economy,” says Dutcher. “I think this panic will be short-lived. I bet in a few weeks it will be mostly business as usual.
Mike Wilson, owner of the Drift Lodge at Island Park and chairman of the Yellowstone Teton Territory, is among those people who could see his livelihood damaged due to confusion between where the damage is and where things are operational.
“I also hold an ACU (Commercial Use Authorization) in the park for fishing, and am completely closed. I have five guys who have nothing to do,” Wilson said.
Wilson is licensed to take park visitors on guided fly fishing trips in the park. But with the park closed, reservations must be canceled until further notice.
“I don’t want people who are supposed to come in the next 7-10 days to cancel because we expect to be back in the park,” Wilson says. “It’s not as bad here as it is on the north side. I feel very bad for the people on the north side, but at the same time I have to take care of our businesses on our side of the park.
The park is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, causing many tourists and workers to fear that the anniversary will be missed or overshadowed due to closures, road reconstruction and general damage adjustment.
“I also like going to the park. You know it’s the 150th anniversary, and it would suck to have it shut down all the time,” says Island Park Mayor Mike Bodkin. “It’s kind of like getting the flu on your birthday, you know?”
Bodkin expects the park’s lower loop, with entrances on the west, east and south sides, to be open by next week. He doesn’t expect the north entrance to be open anytime soon.
“It’s part of life. You have to deal with gas prices and all the other bullshit, and there’s a lot of tension in the air because everyone’s stressed out about a lot of things,” says Bodkin. “(Tourists) come here to relax, so with the fact that the park isn’t open, it’s like, ‘What are we going to do? What are we going to do?’ and you just tell them, you know, ‘Calm down. You just have to rethink the plan a bit, but it’ll be fine. You can always de-stress yourself. You might spend a little less gas, but it’ll be fine.
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