Obama to visit Yellowstone
By Thomas Dewell, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 8, 2009
President Obama and the first family will visit Yellowstone National Park on Aug. 15 as part of a three-day, four-state swing through the West, White House Press Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.
The Obamas will travel to Bozeman, Mont., on Aug. 14, then visit Yellowstone and Grand Junction, Colo., the next day. On Aug. 16, the presidential party will visit Grand Canyon National Park and Phoenix.
“The first family’s visit[s] to the national parks occur during a fee-free weekend for our national parks,” Gibbs said, according to a transcript of a news conference at The White House.
While in office, President Clinton and his family vacationed in Jackson Hole twice. During the visits, the Clintons helicoptered to Yellowstone.
The Obamas will vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., at the end of August.
During the Friday press briefing, Gibbs said the president planned to highlight on his trip the fact that entrance fees will be waived at national parks Aug. 15 and 16. The weekend is the final of three fee-free periods offered during the summer.
At The White House news conference, a reporter asked why the president was going to the parks.
Gibbs replied: “Partly to highlight our national park system, to highlight the weekend, where we hope millions of Americans will enjoy the national park system. And there will also be events in addition to some of the stops.”
Gibbs said the president had visited Yellowstone before.
“I know he’s been to Yellowstone, because he tells a story of coming to visit his grandparents that I believe includes both stops at Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, coming from Hawaii,” Gibbs said.
Marcia Kunstel, chairwoman of the Teton County Democratic Party, welcomed the presidential visit.
“It is probably the best thing that could happen for the great natural resources of the West,” Kunstel said. “Until you see the wonder and the grandeur of places like Yellowstone, it is hard to understand how critically important it is to save them. As an environmental activist and a political person, I am thrilled the Obama family is going to enjoy the things that we’re so lucky to have in our backyard.”
Wallace Ulrich, chairman of the Teton County Republican Party, also was pleased the Obamas would be exposed to the West and its people.
“If they really get that contact, they are going to change a little bit,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich also hoped the visit to Yellowstone would have specific results, namely that the federal government would release money for the U.S. Geological Survey to install a new seismic monitoring network in the park.
“I would plead with the president to pull up the barriers his budget office has put in the way of the USGS deploying a new, advanced seismic system in Yellowstone for both federal and state scientists,” he said.
During the press briefing, a reporter joked about recent legislation signed by the president that allows concealed weapons in national parks.
“We have – fret not, Helen, we have the best security in the world,” Gibbs said.
On Friday, the White House press office did not know if the president’s visit to the world’s first national park would be open to the public.