Managing the Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton National Park

The History of Grand Teton National Park

The history of Grand Teton National Park comes alive through vintage photographs.
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As an avid visitor and author of a book on the history of Grand Teton National Park, the question of how to best manage the Moose-Wilson Road in Grand Teton National Park has been at the forefront of my thoughts lately. I have read through the “Moose-Wilson Corridor Preliminary Alternatives Newsletter” several times. The National Park Service is presenting these alternative proposals for public input through September 15, 2014.

As stated above, I am a visitor to Grand Teton National Park. As a tourist, my first instinct is that it would be really nice to have more access in this area. Wider, paved roads with more pullouts and a separate bicycle path sound like wonderful ideas to my tourist self. However, I have to step outside of myself and ask “What is best for the preservation of wildlife and their habitat in this tranquil forest?” The answer is not necessarily what is best for people.

One of the things that makes Grand Teton National Park so special is how under developed it really is in respect to many other national parks. One can not drive their car to Hidden Falls or Taggart Lake. No road has been constructed up into the mountains cutting back and forth on the Grand Teton or any of the other peaks in the range. If you want to experience the back country in the park, you must get out of your car and use your feet to immerse yourself in the wilderness. The vehicle is best used for magnificent views from a distance. And yes, it is also used by locals to get from Point A to Point B. 

Having spent countless hours researching the history and controversy surrounding the creation of Grand Teton National Park, I have tried to place myself in the shoes of those who dedicated themselves to preserving this area so it would remain pristine for future generations to enjoy. I think back to Horace M. Albright who had such a passion and dedication to this cause. I think about the wonderful gift that John D. Rockefeller Jr. imparted upon us all when he purchased land in the valley with the express purpose of donating it so all could enjoy. Neither one of these individuals wanted to see commercial development of the area.

The four proposals for the corridor vary from leaving things as is to realigning and paving existing roads, adding more turnouts, and a bicycle path. The path that would cause the least disruption to the area is to leave the corridor as is. Highlighting the area as a destination would only increase traffic into this fragile portion of the park. If the time has come that human traffic during peak season is putting the area at risk, human traffic should be limited.

7 Days & Beyond in Grand Teton National Park

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Possible Traffic Solutions

  • Traffic could be controlled along the corridor by the proposal to limit the amount of cars allowed on the road through wait lines monitored by park service employees on each end of the road.
  • A reservation system could also be used which would allow the appropriate number of people to pass at a well-timed interval.
  • Alternatively, the road could be turned into a one-way road which switches directions approximately every hour. This would result in greater safety for bicyclists sharing this narrow road and less congestion when wildlife is spotted. Wildlife sightings do not just happen at turnouts and people will stop even if there are “No Parking” signs. Rather than building more turnouts, if the road was one way motorists who did not wish to stop could safely pass. If the majority of locals use the road to commute to Jackson or other towns for work, make it one way in the appropriate direction during peak commuter times.

Whatever path is taken in regards to the Moose-Wilson Road, it should be one that places the needs of wildlife and habitat at the forefront, not the needs of people.

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