Page 9 - Flathead Beacon // 10.5.16
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Park O cials Look at Impacts of Record-Breaking Visitation in Glacier Longer tourist season presenting challenges for park services, infrastructure
For the  rst time in the Lake McDon- ald Lodge’s 103-year history, every room was occupied the night before the hotel closed for the season.
The fact that all 82 rooms were occu- pied on Sept. 27 exempli es just how busy Glacier National Park has been this sum- mer. While in years past visitor numbers dropped signi cantly in the park after Labor Day, o cials said that hasn’t been the case this year.
“September is starting to look a lot like August around here,” said Marc Ducha- rme, general manger of Xanterra Park and Resorts operations in Glacier.
From January to August of this year, more than 2.3 million people visited Gla- cier, an 18 percent increase over 2015. In July, 818, 481 people visited the park, making it the busiest month on record. In August, 736,868 people came to Gla- cier, making it the second-busiest month in park history.
Last year, a record-breaking 2.36 mil- lion people visited the park, a record likely broken last month.
Spokesperson Tim Rains said park o - cials are attributing some of the increase to the National Park Service’s centennial, but added that Glacier is also attracting more and more people every year.
“This summer gave us a really good look at what a 20 percent increase in vis- itation looks like,” Rains said. “We’re still a locals’ park, and we’ll always be a locals’ park, but we’re also becoming a destina- tion park, too.”
Rains said the increase in visitation is putting a strain on services; the park- ing lot at Logan Pass has been  lling up with vehicles earlier and bathroom lines there are longer than ever. Popular paths like the Avalanche Lake Trail were also
Red Busses and other vehicles gather outside Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park. BEACON FILE PHOTO
extremely congested over the summer, so much so that the park often assigned a ranger there on busy days.
While park advocates say more visi- tors mean more public land supporters, Rains said it provides o cials with new challenges.
“We have to ensure that we main- tain those experiences of solitude in the wilderness while also welcoming the masses,” he said.
A new Going-to-the-Sun Road corri- dor management plan due out in early 2017 could address some of the concerns. Rains said it’s too early to tell what its
authors will propose, but suggested that reservation systems and expanded shut- tle services are both possibilities.
The park is sending a survey to its employees gathering input on this year’s crowds and to get suggestions on how to deal with it better in the future. Rains said o cials would spend the winter studying what worked and what didn’t.
“We’ll be taking a long look at this past summer,” Rains said.
Among the considerations will be how to deal with the growing shoulder sea- son. Traditionally, crowds thin out after Labor Day and services shut down.
However, simply keeping facilities open later into the season is easier said than done, Ducharme noted. None of the plumbing at the historic lodges is insu- lated. If a cold snap were to hit while there was still water in the system, it could have disastrous impacts.
While the lodges have to close early, the Red Buses are still rolling up and over the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Three years after Xanterra began o ering Red Bus tours into October, Ducharme said the extended season is starting to pay o  and some trips are already selling out.
October is one of the most beautiful times to visit Glacier National Park; however, ser- vices are limited.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road from West Glacier to St. Mary remains open until Oct. 16, although that can change should winter weather arrive. Visitors to the Sun Road around Logan Pass should expect delays due to construction on the guard walls below Oberlin Bend. Xanterra Parks and Resorts is still o ering Red Bus tours in and around the park.
The Logan Pass and St. Mary Visitor centers have closed for the season. Starting Oct. 10, the Apgar Visitor Center is only open on weekends from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. All of the lodges and chalets in the park, including the Lake McDonald Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier Park Lodge, and Granite and Sperry chalets, have closed for the season.
The Apgar Campground remains open near the west entrance of the park through Oct. 10. Campgrounds at Kintla Lake, Bowman Lake, Quartz Creek, Logging Creek, Many Glacier, St. Mary and Two Medi- cine are now in a primitive condition, meaning people can camp there but there are no services. Camp- grounds at Fish Creek, Sprague Creek, Avalanche, Rising Sun, and Cut Bank have all closed for the season.
For the latest information on what’s open and closed in Glacier National Park, visit
Many Glacier Hotel. BEACON FILE PHOTO

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