My interpretation of the statistics (FWIW)

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 09:52:39 08/12/17

In Reply to: The dramatic changes in the shoulder seasons posted by TravelingBear


Regarding the surge in visitation during the "shoulder seasons", I see a common phenomenon. Way back when I spent 2 years in West Germany as a member of the U.S. Army (1970-1972), I kept hearing and reading about how the population of western Europe would swell during peak tourist season in the summer. It was common knowledge among G.I.'s and other American citizens (and their travel agents), who wanted to visit Europe, that the best way to avoid the crowds was to go in April, May, September, and October. I have vivid memories of being with my in-laws, cruising around in pedal boats on Lake Zurich, watching throngs of Japanese tourists exiting tour buses on the shore, cameras in hand. The congestion was substantial. It was mid-June. I also recall an autumn visit to Zermatt. The vast majority of the visitors were locals or regionals, who spoke German and/or Italian.

Fast forward to 1972-1979, when we lived in the Seattle suburbs: Our kids were infants and pre-schoolers until our last full year up there. We learned early on to concentrate our car camping on the Olympic Peninsula to spring and fall. Finding desirable campsites on the west side of the Peninsula was so much easier. Our neighbors tended to fall into one of several categories: (1) empty nesters, particularly retired folk, (2) young adults traveling inexpensively (tents vs. RV's), and (3) couples without offspring. My point is that when you have congestion, some percentage of the traveling public will react to it by skewing their seasonality. This dynamic can assist in spreading the load on the resource. I have noticed that most Asian and European bus riders in the shoulder seasons are older, retired age people. (Retired, fixed income folks often take advantage of decreased rates during shoulder seasons.)

For years, I felt almost "smugly comfortable" that Yellowstone would never get as crowded as we are seeing it now, and even spoke about it on this page. My belief centered on the lack of major metropolitan areas in close proximity to the park. I argued that the limited camping and lodging facilities was self-limiting. Then, we saw a surge in the construction of new large lodging establishments in West Yellowstone in the early-mid-2000's. The bed capacity increased dramatically. That likely explains the phenomenon showcased in the aerial photo Ralph posted. The irony is that the surge in the seasonal visitor population in West Yellowstone has finally produced a certain amount of angst in the permanent residents. There is a long list of issues that have surfaced, including strain on public utilities, traffic issues, and lack of affordable housing for seasonal employees. I cheered years ago when West Yellowstone voted in a local option sales tax, which helped fund improvements in local infrastructure. Now, I wonder if that wasn't one of the contributors to the crowding problem. Bare minimum, it is a double-edge sword.

The other gateway communities have a number of limitations on unbridled expansion. Gardiner's problem is a simple lack of developable land, due to it's "island" status, surrounded by public land. Cooke City and Silver Gate are hamstrung by that same complication, but also, a severe lack of public utility capacity.

(I hope to reply to your email later today, once I finish my posting on social media. LOL)


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