Montana gates to Yellowstone park opening Monday
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s three entrances to Yellowstone National Park will reopen to visitors Monday, as the state moves to its second phase of restarting the economy after shutdowns because of the coronavirus.
Parts of Glacier National Park could open in mid-June, Gov. Steve Bullock added Thursday, but a specific day has not been set.
The West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City entrances to Yellowstone will open two weeks after Wyoming’s entrances near Cody and Jackson. The park, famous for its geysers and bison, remains open for day use only. No overnight accommodations are available, and large tour buses aren’t allowed yet, park Superintendent Cam Sholly said.
Park employees won’t be policing visitors’ compliance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines such as social distancing and wearing masks, Sholly said Thursday.
“We have to have the respect of the public to adhere to health guidelines,” he said.
The opening of Yellowstone remains a gradual one. Limited overnight facilities, such as cabins and campgrounds, will begin reopening later in June, Sholly said.
The Montana gates will reopen at 10 a.m. Monday.
Montana’s second phase of reopening Monday includes allowing bars and restaurants to operate at 75% of capacity and letting groups of up to 50 gather as long as they can meet social distancing guidelines. Montana is also lifting its 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors.
The elderly and people with underlying medical conditions are encouraged to stay home. Companies are encouraged to continue having employees work at home, if possible.
With the increase in visitors, Montana is going to increase COVID-19 testing in destination and gateway areas and of park employees and other workers in tourist areas, Bullock said. Additional contact tracing will be available, too.
Montana is using $20 million of its federal coronavirus relief money to offer grants of up to $5,000 for businesses to help pay for masks, gloves, cleaning supplies and plastic shields to keep employees and customers safe, Bullock said.
The state is also spending $15 million to help destination areas develop and deliver an informational campaign to remind visitors of the state’s coronavirus guidelines. Bullock is asking visitors to respect those guidelines as well as those set by individual businesses and to exercise patience as Montana communities “slowly and gradually welcome you back.”
The eastern entrances to Glacier National Park, which lead to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, are expected to remain closed until the Blackfeet Tribal Council lifts its prohibition on nonessential travel, Bullock said.