Yellowstone Park paving paradise

Yellowstone National Park’s plan to add 7 acres of pavement to a Fishing Bridge campground is “bizarre,” a conservation group asserts.

The park proposes paving treed land in the Fishing Bridge RV campground to accommodate bus-sized recreational vehicles. The Lake Area Comprehensive Plan would add 121,000 square feet of buildings and a total of almost 10 acres of pavement at Lake Village, Fishing Bridge and Bridge Bay.

“It’s bizarre that they want to pave the park to accommodate the largest RVs known to mankind,” said Mark Pearson, conservation program manager for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “They don’t necessarily need to size all their infrastructure to accommodate the biggest things in existence.”

Pearson said these “Greyhound bus-sized” campers can find accommodations just outside the park. Owners of large RVs often tow smaller vehicles that could be used to tour Yellowstone, he said.

The Park Service removed a tent campground and hundreds of guest cabins in the Fishing Bridge area in the 1980s to reduce human-grizzly bear conflicts. At the time, spawning Yellowstone cutthroat trout would move up tributaries at the Fishing Bridge area, attracting bears in need of protein. Since then, the introduction of non-native mackinaw trout into Yellowstone Lake has drastically reduced cutthroat spawning runs. Park officials hope to remove mackinaw so cutthroat populations can rebuild.

Removing trees and paving cleared areas within the Fishing Bridge RV campground would reduce the chances of grizzly bear conflicts, said Eleanor Clark, Yellowstone’s chief of comprehensive planning and design. Treed areas within the campground may actually attract grizzly bears, she said.

Conflicts between grizzlies and humans at the Fishing Bridge area have been rare in recent years, and the campground is not considered important habitat for the animals, Clark said.

The RV park was built from 1963 to 1964, Clark said.

“It’s nearly 50 years old,” she said. “It hasn’t been substantially renovated in that period of time. There are things like electrical and water deficiencies in that RV park.”

“It is the only place in the entire park where we provide full hookups for those vehicles,” Clark continued. “There are no other RV [campgrounds] in the park.”

Clark said she realizes that super-sized RVs are controversial, but said they’re not prohibited in Yellowstone.

Building new spaces for the RVs decreases the potential number of vehicles in campgrounds, Clark said.

“The sites are longer, but they actually accommodate [fewer] vehicles,” she said.

The plan seems to contradict Park Service values, Pearson said.

“Going farther down that path of big expanses of pavement seems like the wrong direction for Yellowstone,” he said.

The Park Service plans 12.7 acres of new buildings, roads and parking lots for the Lake Area, Fishing Bridge and Bridge Bay. Projects include a pedestrian path from Lake Hotel to the Lake General Store and moving the Lake Lodge cabins away from Lodge Creek.

Plans call for expanding the Fishing Bridge repair garage and 58,000 square feet of employee housing, maintenance and storage facilities, a garbage and recycling building and a recreation center.

Park officials also plan an 11,800-square-foot addition to the Lake Lodge and a 3,600-square-foot addition to the Lake Hotel.

The lake shore area would see 13,000 square feet of new buildings, including bathrooms and renovated Lake Ranger Station offices. Officials have proposed a new road behind the ranger station.

The Environmental Assessment and an electronic comments form can be found at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/lakecompplan.

To get a paper copy of the report, write Lake Comprehensive Plan EA, National Park Service, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190.

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