Yellowstone Approves Plan for Development

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – Developments, including more parking and new toilets, could be allowed at Tower-Roosevelt in Yellowstone National Park under a first-of-its-kind comprehensive plan approved earlier this month.

The decision adopts a medium level of change to accommodate new structures while ensuring that they blend with the rustic and historic nature of the area in the north-central region of the park. The popular cookout site at Yancey’s Hole, which could have been removed under a more restrictive prescription, will be allowed to continue operation and new serving and eating facilities and a vault toilet can be built at the site.

“We’re not saying anything has to happen,” said Eleanor Williams Clark, Yellowstone’s chief of comprehensive planning. “We’re saying this could happen, and if it does, this is how it should be done.”

The idea of the planning is to preserve and protect the natural, cultural and visual resources of an area whose buildings date back to the early 1900s.

An additional 11,025 square feet could be added to the footprint for the area’s 124 buildings, a 10 percent gain from the current 115,000 square feet. This gain could be offset somewhat by removal of up to 5,000 square feet of the Tower Store. Paved parking, currently 142,332 square feet, could increase by 23 percent, or 33,000 square feet.

The development would be spread across eight locations — Roosevelt Lodge, Roosevelt Corrals, Tower Ranger Station, Tower Administrative, Tower Junction, Tower Fall Trailhead, Tower Fall Campground and Yancey’s Hole.

Tower-Roosevelt is one of the most heavily booked sites in the park, with occupancy for stays at Roosevelt Lodge or clients of the trail ride and dinner to Yancey’s Hole regularly exceeding 90 percent.

“It’s a different type of visitor than those who visit Canyon, Old Faithful or Lake,” Clark said. “They’re more contemplative, they get out more taking hikes or spending time fishing.”

Although such visitors like the rustic character of the area, Clark said it was important to allow for some improvement to the facilities, such as a new vault toilet at Yancey’s Hole and the redesign of the parking area at Tower Store to improve safety. The plan would also allow for changes to a gas station at Tower Junction that doesn’t blend with the rest of the structures and whose bright lights interfere with viewing the nighttime sky.

“Any development will have to go through additional environmental compliance,” Clark said, so no work is rubber-stamped.

The plan is the first of its kind for the park and includes a detailed resource inventory of the area. Other areas, including Old Faithful, are now undergoing the same planning process.

“We think it was very successful,” Clark said.

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