Why are Yellowstone roads closing early?

Submitted by Steve Torrey
Posted 2/20/24

Dear editor:

We’ve been shut out of Yellowstone.

For the second year in a row, Yellowstone interior roads closed early for the summer season on Oct. 31. For decades interior …

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Why are Yellowstone roads closing early?


Dear editor:

We’ve been shut out of Yellowstone.

For the second year in a row, Yellowstone interior roads closed early for the summer season on Oct. 31. For decades interior roads were scheduled to close the first Monday in November allowing a final weekend of access.

This callous disregard toward locals, local businesses and regional tourism leaders working to expand shoulder seasons reveals the historic true nature of the National Park Service. They don’t care, partner. 

Superintendent Mike Finley (1994-2001), found himself explaining why roads remained unplowed in the spring, in addition to closing Dunraven Pass because of potholes. Suzanne Lewis (2002-2010), exaggerated avalanche mitigation costs on Sylvan Pass in hopes of successfully banning snowmachines in the Winter Use Plan. Do you remember those lively 2007 debates and the figurative fireworks?  

Dan Wenk (2011-2019), warmed to his let it melt plan threatening not to plow the East Gate road as our punishment for President Obama’s budget sequestration. Fireworks galore with that authoritarian in 2013.

Comes now, Cam Sholly (2019 to present) who has stated his number one concern is “improving working and living conditions” in the park.  

My letter to Mr. Sholly on Nov. 14, 2023: “Why did you close the interior roads of the “public pleasuring ground” for the season October 31, ripping-off the public of more than five days of use?”

Mr. Sholly’s eventual curt response, (Dec. 19): “The fall closure date for Yellowstone this year was October 31, same as last year.”

County commissioner, Dossie Overfield, sent me this informative email January 8, 2024:   

“I have had this conversation with Mr. Sholly when the roads first closed. He has very valid reasoning and it will now be October 31st each year for consistency. He is hoping they can open earlier in the Spring each year to make up the difference. Cabins and bathrooms were freezing up the first part of November and not enough use to cover the costs of possible damages.”  

“Cover the cost” Shollynomics applied equally to a heavily subsidized park means the  non-native lawns around Cam’s Officers Row dacha would never be mowed. Total fee revenue — entrance, concession, special use, campgrounds, backcountry, fines, etc. — does not meet operational costs. Mr. Sholly and Co. cannot effectively operate cash-cow campgrounds, as five are contracted out.

Fair-market value rent is not charged to NPS staff living in the park, thus maintenance is upside-down, or “deferred.” Mr. Sholly is feverishly working to eradicate the rot and decay employees reportedly have been experiencing.  

Housing squalor has morphed into new housing, which systematically began rotting yesterday due to lack of maintenance because there is not enough rent to cover maintenance costs. Story idea alert here, media.

Mr. Sholly, if suddenly you must operate Yellowstone on a cost benefit basis, eliminate upside-down employee housing or quintuple the rent. Absent public meetings as required by law, you have effectively raised the entrance fee by shrinking public access.

Freezing pipes? The plumbing in the thermal areas I enjoy never freeze.  

Mr. Sholly, give us back our park.

Steve Torrey