Why does the Jackson Hole News&Guide choose to rush to judgment about the status of Meadow Road instead of allowing Grand Teton National Park’s assessment process to proceed and be completed?

In response to your misleading editorial opinion and inadequate journalistic coverage, I once again offer some basic facts that the paper has ignored to date.

Traffic. You state that 200 vehicles travel our access road daily during the busy summer season. With the assistance of Park Service equipment, traffic counts were conducted in 2013. Today it is estimated that we have up to 400 to 500 trips on the busiest days. For some 50 years our community has graded and maintained our gravel road system at our expense. Now, due to the heavy traffic, the effort to maintain a gravel surface has become unsustainable, unsafe, cost ineffective and poses serious environmental impacts to park resources.

Health and safety. At times, road surfaces have become so bad that only one-way traffic is reasonable. This imperils access by emergency vehicles, ambulances and fire equipment. There have been incidents where seriously ill residents could no longer live here in their homes due to significant pain they encountered trying to navigate potholed and deep-rutted roads. You imply this would be “paving paradise.” There are life-saving decisions facing our neighborhood and opportunities to mitigate environmental impacts to the park.

Environmental. To control dust 30 to 40 tons of magnesium chloride (DustGard) are applied to our access road each season. This chemical affects vehicles and many are concerned about the impact on park plants and insect communities. When the effect of DustGard subsides, traffic creates dust clouds visible in the park from Gros Ventre Junction to Moose. One park official noted, “All that dust layering across the park can’t be good.” In addition, a mile of bordering drainage ditches must be scraped each spring to recover gravel for the road surface. A hard road surface would return a few acres of greenery to the national park.

The paper callously editorializes that improving Meadow Road will simply cater to a few “multimillion-dollar homes.” If anyone from the paper would bother to visit, you would find a neighborhood that is mostly “old” Jackson Hole. Of the some 41 homes here, 34 (85%) are modest in size (in 2,000 to 3,000 square foot range or less) and most 30 to 40 years old.

Since some contend that “only a few” folks live here in the winter, improving access should not be a priority. For the record, in at least a dozen homes 32 individuals will reside in the neighborhood this winter. Kids need to get to school and others have to go to work. Service providers, building contractors, workers and supplies also will need reliable access.

For decades now the park has appropriately provided and maintained safe and environmentally sound year-around access for residential areas throughout the park. Recently, they decided they own and are responsible for the Meadow Road access corridor. Our community simply looks forward to a partnership of parity for the future.

John F. Turner is a valley native, former president of the Wyoming State Senate and served as director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under President George H. W. Bush. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

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