Continuing to invest in Yellowstone National Park, two concessionaires are seeking permission to add RV sites, small modular homes and laundry and bathroom facilities to alleviate crowding for seasonal workers at Canyon Village and West Yellowstone.
The work is outlined in a draft environmental assessment published by the park and now open for public comment until June 14.
“Additional housing is needed because concessions staffing levels have increased to accommodate growing visitor use and expanded visitor services; however, housing supply has not expanded commensurate with staffing levels,” according to the assessment. “Some housing is available in gateway communities, but distances to places of work make daily commuting impractical, especially for employees in the park’s interior.”
West Yellowstone is the most popular entrance to the park and Canyon Village sits on the edge of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Upper and Lower waterfalls.
Near the park’s West Entrance, Delaware North Corp. — which operates 12 general stores within the park — is proposing to build 25 RV sites and a bath house adjacent to an already developed area that includes the General Store Warehouse. The sites would be used for seasonal housing for General Store employees from late March through early November.
Delaware North already owns several properties in West Yellowstone, including hotels, apartment buildings, and an RV Park for visitors and employees, according to the document, but there’s no room to expand its existing RV park.
Officials are still working out how the new RV sites could be hooked into the small town’s maxed-out sewer and water systems. Since 2016 the town has notified residents that there’s little capacity for either system to add new residential or commercial customers. The town’s primary water source, Whiskey Springs, has seen its flow decrease.
The problem is noted in the report, which states that the park “will work with West Yellowstone to secure necessary permits prior to any new water use for the RV sites.”
Although West Yellowstone has the second largest sewage plant in Gallatin County, it lacks lagoon space to accommodate additional sewer hookups. The EA said the town is in the process of developing a new sewage lagoon to handle more use.
At Canyon Village, Xanterra Parks & Resorts would use a now-abandoned wing of a campground for as many as 14 RV sites and six modular homes, each about 650 square feet in size. Existing facilities would be rehabilitated to provide shower and laundry services.
“As visitation has grown, it will be nice to have enough facilities for our employees,” said Mike Keller, general manager of Xanterra’s Yellowstone National Park Lodges.
At full staffing Canyon has 550 employees, Keller said.
This would be the first of several planned improvements for Xanterra at Canyon Village. In the future the company has plans to: renovate its 50-room dormitory that was built in 1956, build a new dormitory with another 60 to 80 rooms, construct four new cabins and a bathhouse for wranglers, as well as a pub and recreation hall for its workers.
At Lake, Xanterra has plans to rebuild the lodge cafeteria and the hotel kitchen in the future.
The proposals are the most recent in a string of improvements Xanterra has made in the nation’s first national park, which annually is attracting about 4 million visitors.
Since 2003 Xanterra has built new employee housing at Old Faithful and Lake, constructed five new lodges at Canyon, updated its Canyon restaurant, and refurbished the historic Lake Hotel and cabins, Old Faithful Inn and renovated Grant Village lodging facilities. All told the company owns nine lodging facilities in the park that can house 2,287 people.
So far Xanterra’s investment in infrastructure has added up to more than $170 million since 2013 with another $25 million being invested to upgrade the Fishing Bridge campground built in 1963 and the remaining 66 Lake cabins, Keller said.
“It never ends here,” he said.
Keller added that his company sees the spending on infrastructure as a good investment.
“It’s also our responsibility to keep these facilities up and running to meet visitor needs,” he said.
Also in the works in Yellowstone is the Park Service’s modernization of the historic Mammoth Hotel.