Glacier seeks input on reservation system, visitor experience
A family takes a break along the Avalanche Lake Trail in this file photo from last summer. (Teresa Byrd photo)
Glacier National Park is asking for public input on the reservation system and other aspects of public access in a series of upcoming meetings, including one in Columbia Falls at the end of the month.
The Park is in its third summer of a reservation system, though this was the first year with a reservation requirement to enter the east side entrances at Many Glacier and Two Medicine.
The meetings start next week and include:
A virtual meeting Aug. 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. Join by following the link at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/MeetingNotices.cfm?projectID=118357
On Monday, Aug. 28, there will be an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Mary Visitor Center on the east side of the park.
On Tuesday, Aug. 29 there will be an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls.
“We have learned a lot from the last three years of pilot reservation systems,” said park Superintendent Dave Roemer. “We’d like to hear from the public about what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and what ideas they have for managing high visitation at Glacier for 2024. We are listening, and truly need that input before we begin to develop a strategy for next summer.”
The Park has come under fire from Montana Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke, who recently got an amendment through a House Committee to defund the reservation system as part of an Interior budget bill. Zinke has advocated the implementation of a more robust shuttle system for the park that would use technology for crowd control.
The amendment still has a long way to go make it into law, however.
Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democratic, has expressed opposition to defunding the reservation system.
Booz Allen Hamilton, the company that operates Recreation.gov, has also come under fire, as it’s been reaping millions in profits from fees that are charged when people make a reservation.
There were 135,086 "Going-to-the-Sun Road Entry Tickets" available to be booked on Recreation.gov in 2021, the Park Service said.
In 2022 there were 180,832 total vehicle reservations (169,456 for Going-to-the-Sun Road and 11,376 for North Fork) released.
Even with a reservation system in place, visitation has been very high in Glacier.
Over the past 20 years, annual visitation at Glacier has doubled, from approximately 1.5 million to over 3 million.
Much of this use is concentrated along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor and other front-country destinations during the peak season of June through September.
There is a questionnaire and links to comment at: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=61&projectID=118357&documentID=131234