Regular visitors to Grand Teton National Park’s String Lake will notice a few changes in upcoming weeks and months.
More than 4,000 people stop by String Lake on busy summer days. During the two summers prior, researchers surveyed the masses to help the park determine what could be changed to improve the experience. Park officials this week announced those tweaks, which are more adjustments than fundamental changes to the infrastructure or rules.
“They’re very small, incremental changes to move us toward a bigger-picture vision,” park spokeswoman Denise Germann said. “They’re all pilot projects and very simple things.”
Visible changes will include more signs warning picnickers about the risk of food-conditioned bears and explaining food storage rules. Black bears have learned to capitalize on unattended backpacks, coolers and picnic tables in recent years, sometimes with lethal outcomes for the animals.
Earlier this month, park staff had to kill a female black bear after she became habituated to human foods and posed a danger to people. The bear regularly trolled parts of Jenny and String lakes where she approached people and received human food rewards.
Among the changes at String Lake, the National Park Service is installing rope and pole barriers along the trails and shoreline.
The park also plans to add road delineators to separate motorists from pedestrians and cyclists. Lastly, a horse trailer parking area is being designated at the nearby Cathedral Group Turnout.
To help educate and police the String Lake hordes, the park is also continuing to dispatch its “Lakers” volunteers, who augment the presence of the limited park rangers on staff. The volunteers will be on site seven days a week, May through September.
“Those volunteers have been awesome,” Germann said. “It’s made a huge difference with our visitors, our parking, with bear conflicts. They’ve been absolutely incredible.”
String Lake’s record popularity in recent years may have been tied to construction at Jenny Lake, work that often resulted in redirections and recommendations to go to String instead.
“Through our studies, we learned that many visitors showed up at String Lake thinking they were at Jenny Lake,” Germann said.
The park will look to see if that trend reverses, she said, now that the infrastructure renewal at Jenny Lake is complete.