Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center

A seasonal Grand Teton National Park ranger greets guests outside the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in 2014. The Moose-area facility, and two other visitor centers, will open for the season on Tuesday after an extended closure due to COVID-19.

Nearly a month after Grand Teton National Park reopened its gates to the public, three park visitor centers will unlock their doors Tuesday for the first time this year.

On Monday, park officials announced the Tuesday openings of the Moose-area Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, the Colter Bay Visitor Center on Jackson Lake, and the ranger station and “welcome center” at Jenny Lake. There will be no cap on numbers of people admitted into the buildings at any one time, but park spokeswoman Denise Germann said that the centers’ operations will be different and that she’s telling people “to come with their patience.”

“We are using stanchions within the visitor centers,” Germann told the Jackson Hole Daily. “There may be a line of people waiting to talk to someone. We’re not limiting the people, we’re just organizing and structuring the people in a way that’s both safe for visitors and employees.”

Grand Teton’s three visitor centers are the first large visitor centers to open in Teton County.

In Yellowstone National Park, visitor and information centers located within Teton County include Grant Village, West Thumb, Fishing Bridge, Madison and Old Faithful.

Yellowstone public affairs employees authorized to speak to the press were unable to be reached for an interview Monday afternoon, but an attendant answering the phone at the Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth said that all of the park’s visitor centers remain closed, though plans are to open them “sooner rather than later.”

On National Elk Refuge property bordering the town along North Cache Street, the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center also remains closed. In the interim, phone calls are being redirected to the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, where a phone attendant said Monday that the tentative reopening date has been slated for late June. An attempt to reach the visitor center manager for details late Monday was unsuccessful.

As communities reopen, and people’s travel increases, health officials are keeping a close eye on the spread of the novel coronavirus. After dipping to zero cases, Teton County currently has five known active cases. See the story on page 2 for more.

Grand Teton National Park has not had a positive case among its staff that Germann was aware of. There is also not yet a system in place to test employees who will be interfacing with the thousands of visitors who enter the park daily, but the park is in discussions with Teton County Public Health.

“We have not done any testing to date,” Germann said, “but we’re still looking at the option of testing many of our front-line employees.”

Yellowstone National Park reported Thursday that it performed a second round of testing on employees who interact with the public. In the first round, it tested 43 employees, all of whom were negative. The second round tested 179 employees with no positive results. Yellowstone will continue testing employees in conjunction with Wyoming and Montana, the park said in a release.

In Grand Teton National Park, when tourists arrive at visitor centers they’ll be greeted by some changes: new plexiglass barriers at help desks, exhibits that are stanchioned off and park employees wearing face coverings when social distancing is not an option.

The visitor centers in Moose, Colter Bay and Jenny Lake will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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