Grand Teton Park to Get Upgraded Campground

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June 3, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

One of Grand Teton National Park's oldest and largest campgrounds could get a major upgrade starting later this year after park officials announced they want to reduce its footprint, upgrade its infrastructure and allocate a significant number of RV sites for employee housing. 

 Park officials released an environmental assessment for the 45-year-old campground last week. An environmental  assessment is the middle level of analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, according to the Jackson Hole Daily, Jackson, Wyo, 

Officials hope to put the project out to bid by early July and award contract by Aug. 1. Construction could begin by late summer or early fall. 

Grand Teton Lodge Co. was awarded the contract to manage the campground in 2007. 

Perhaps the biggest change is the elimination of two loops of campsites, reducing the number of sites by about 77 from 385 to roughly 308, eliminating three to seven acres of pavement and restoring about eight of 170 acres back to native habitat. 

Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said the reduction in size is significant because the campground occurs in crucial habitat for a number of species. 

"This particular campground is in the migration corridor between the National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park," she said. "It sees hundreds of bison and elk and scores of mule deer and moose, as well as other wildlife, including bears, that use this rich riparian location as critical habitat. This allows us to revert some of that back for the benefit of wildlife and not impact visitors in any way. 

"Given what we know now and the sensitivity that the National Park Service has [to protecting wildlife habitat] … if we were trying to build this from scratch today, I bet we wouldn't build in that particular location," Skaggs continued. 

The impact to visitors would be minimal because the campground almost never fills, according to officials. Skaggs could recount only one instance, in 2003, when the campground didn't have any vacancies. 

"We're pretty confident that even reducing the size of this campground will still serve the majority of visitors," she said. 

Campground Competes with Area RV Parks 

As for infrastructure, Skaggs said the campground currently does not comply with a number of federal standards including the Architectural Barriers Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

"The whole water and wastewater system is old enough so that it takes a lot to maintain it, and some of it is so old it is on the verge of failing," she said. 

The rehabilitation also gives the park the chance to add visitor amenities such as showers, laundry and electrical hookups for recreational vehicles. 

"We have, for a period of time, looked at ways to provide for other visitor services that modern travellers are looking for," she said. Today showers and laundry are currently available only at the Colter Bay Campground. 

The project "will improve the visitor experience and answer a need that visitors have had over the course of several years now," she said. "This will give us those kinds of services in the south end of the park." 

The rehabilitation also would include the conversion of about 50 campsites to RV sites with electric, water and sewer hookups for use by park employees, concessionaires and partners. 

"We've always had a certain percentage of our staff who have had their own RVs," Skaggs said. "We didn't have the capacity to connect them to utilities. This gives a chance to … convert one of the loops to seasonal employee housing." 

Conservation groups have largely supported the effort, especially the reduction in the size of the campground's footprint.

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