Monday, October 02, 2023

The Park is open

| August 16, 2023 2:00 AM

I volunteer in Glacier National Park by answering the phone in Glacier National Park headquarters and working in the “corral” two days a week alongside more than 30 other volunteers and summer park employees.

The park has made every effort to help explain why the reservation system is needed and to help visitors find ways to enjoy Glacier and the surrounding area. Everyone can enter and enjoy the park, but it may not be on their timeline.

The conversation with the visitors normally goes, “So you do not have a vehicle reservation and that is why you were sent to the corral.” The people in the car seem to all talk at once and many comments are made about not knowing about the reservation system, to not being able to get a reservation, driving 3,000 miles, coming from a foreign country, I am a veteran, and I am a Montanan.

Our philosophy is that everyone is treated equally. It is a national park and is for the enjoyment of everyone.

The staff in the corral make many suggestions to try and help the visitors adjust their timeline so that they can enjoy Montana, not just the park.

Travel to St. Mary and get the shuttle there. I tell them it is the best side with wide open views of the mountains and after 3 p.m. go back to your car and drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. If it is after 3 p.m., you can go to other entrances, like Many Glacier.

Go enjoy the beauty of Flathead Lake by taking a cruise on the lake.

Go to Hungry Horse Reservoir and stop at the visitor center.

Go to the zip line or tree walk or go-karts or mini golf.

Go to Whitefish Mountain Resort and take a chair lift ride or alpine slide.

Take a hike outside of the park on Forest Service land or the Whitefish Trail system.

Have a burger and beer or wine tasting.

Visit events like farmers markets, art events, rodeos.

So many people have read on social media the one thing they must do is see the pretty rocks at Lake McDonald (the vibrant colors of a Photo Shopped picture on Facebook) or hike to Avalanche Lake along with the other 1,400 people hiking the trail that day.

Why the reservation system? To control the number of cars in the park at any one time for safety (allow emergency services to get to the accident or medical emergency) and parking. How disappointing is it to get into Glacier and not be able to find a place to park. A letter to the editor suggested bigger parking lots and more of them.

Is the park a park or is it going to be one big parking lot?

If you live in the Flathead, become part of the solution.

Volunteer in Glacier National Park. There are so many opportunities that are interesting and rewarding.

Projects include citizen science projects, plant nursery, nature center, backcountry rangers, goat patrol at Logan Pass, repair and restore projects of buildings, and so much more.

For the 2022 year, volunteers donated 42,788 hours of service, worth a value of $1,106,546.

By volunteering a minimum of 30 hours (most volunteers commit and do many more than the minimum) you receive a sticker that allows entrance for the year.

Everyone has access to Glacier Park.

No one is locked out. Plan ahead, adjust your schedule and enjoy all of Montana.

Sharon DeMeester


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