They got to the Governor

Matt MeadGovernor Matt Mead broke ranks with local government in Jackson Hole. After both the county and town agreed the NPS preferred Alternative C for the 8-mile Moose-Wilson corridor was the most appropriate, Mead said they’re wrong.

In a letter to the Park Service, Mead said Moose-Wilson Road should have a bike path and questioned the 200-vehicle limit, claiming cueing cars might impact air quality. Both criticisms of Alternative C mirror exactly the argument put forth by Teton Village Association (TVA) and Friends of Pathways (FOP).

Mead said he was concerned for public safety (presumably the safety of bikers choosing to use the road as it exists without a dedicated path). Let’s look at the facts: In the 10-year period from 2002 to 2012, Park data records show a total of two bicycle-related incidents. Two total. One of these accidents involved a cyclist crashing into a PARKED dump truck.

bikers vs grizzlyAdding a dedicated bike path will not only be a statistically insignificant measure in reducing injuries to bikers, it will likely put more at risk. Studies by Schmor 1999 and MacHutchon 2014 find bicyclists move as quickly as cars and silently. They spook bears and cause them to frequently charge and attack riders.

Mead has said in the past that local government closest to the people is best and most effective. He has often postured Wyoming against Washington, telling feds to let us run our own state. Now, the governor seems to be changing his tune. Suddenly, suit-and-tie politicians in Cheyenne know what’s best for Jackson Hole. They know better than the Park Service; more disturbingly, they think they know better than our town and county leaders.

Jerry BlannAfter years in the making, with dozens of studies and hundreds of stakeholders involved in the method; and after hearing public input numbering in the thousands, why are TVA and FOP (collectively known as “Jerry Blann”) suddenly being allowed to hijack the process? These are niche, special interest groups at best. But they apparently have the Governor’s Office on speed dial.

Path of Resistance

Keep Moose-Wilson pastoralPerhaps it’s simply a sign of the times we live in when a 700-page document is still not enough to appease some. When Friends of Pathways (FOP) and Teton Village Association (TVA) didn’t have things go their way at the secret meeting with Park Service officials over the Moose-Wilson Road, they lawyered up.

FOP and TVA say they are just “helping” the Park Service by providing their own 22-page analysis courtesy of hired guns Holland & Hart. Truth be told, it looks more like a threat of litigation.

The general public is overwhelmingly on board with the NPS preferred Alternative C that does not include a bicycle pathway through the Moose-Wilson corridor. Elected leaders from the town and county, despite pressure from FOP and TVA, are also in accord.

The Park Service has done its due diligence. The National Environmental Policy Act process has been thorough and exhaustive.

Outdoor author Becky Woods said it perfectly at a recent public meeting.

“Luckily, you [electeds] have the foresight to realize the park is to be managed in perpetuity for future generations that include all Americans and not regional and local interests solely,” Woods said.

To be clear: We are not against bikers or biking. But a dedicated biking lane in Moose-Wilson is selfish, dangerous, and contrary to the pristine nature of a habitat-rich corridor that deserves upmost protection by the Park Service. We are not opposed to Teton Village leaders making a buck. But Moose-Wilson Road is not their driveway. It belongs to ALL people.

Moose-Wilson discussed

Moose-Wilson Road meeting

County commissioners are being offered a chance to sit down with Park Service officials including Superintendent David Vela, his deputy Kevin Schneider, and management assistant Gary Pollock. The discussion is covering everything about the NPS preferred Alternative C: How did they come up with it? What do they still want to hear as far as feedback? What is set in stone and what cam change?

Vela said feedback during the first round of scoping topped 1,000 comments. The second phase of scoping, which Vela said was not required for the EIS, elicited 2,600 comments. The current third and final chance for public comment has been extended to January 30, 2016; park officials have received to date more than 2,700 comments, Vela said.

JHMR president Jerry Blann is on hand in the front row flanked by Melissa Turley and his lawyer.

Others in the community have turned out in numbers as well.

Vela said after analyzing feedback from public a decision should be forthcoming by Fall 2016. Stay tuned.

 

UPDATE:

It’s interesting. Every single person who spoke at public comment began the same way: They started off professing the importance of preserving such a unique and crucial section of park – the resources, the wildlife, the habitat, etc. “We love the park and especially Moose-Wilson corridor” each person said. Eventually came the “but.”

“But we want this…”

“But we want that…”

Each member of the public began well-meaning and then crammed their own wishlist into the EIS plan. Bike paths, buses, parking, road-widening, shortcut to the airport, etc.

Former GTNP spokesperson said it best in Save Historic Jackson Hole’s opinion.

“I plead with you to look at history and the battles fought that eventually led to the creation of the park. The very principles of conservation,” Anzelmo said. “We have something here that is singularly unique, and everyone can’t have everything they want. You are at a very special point in history; you this board. More than any other board at any other time in history.”

Moose-Wilson Corridor

Moose-Wilson Corridor

Save Historic Jackson Hole was at the open house at the Teton County Library where the NPS presented the 4 alternatives and answered questions about their preferred Alternative C.

The one question we had was whether vehicles parked within the corridor – whether at trailheads or ranches or discovery centers – would count against the 200 vehicle max at any one time. They would. the Park Service has accounted for the amount of parking spaces within the corridor. If all of them were being used, that would still leave room for 60 vehicles to be traveling the road at a time. That’s approximately one vehicle every 1/8-mile. The Park Service believes that to be a safe enough and fairly uncontested condition.

IMG_1204

 

Don’t be bullied by special interest groups and greed. Inform yourself and then make yourself heard. And above all, keep Wyoming wild!

http://www.nps.gov/grte/learn/management/mwccmp.htm

SHJH believes the most important topics on the schedule for review of the LDRs in the next 6 months are Conservation of the Rural Areas in the county and Lodging Overlay update/Downtown Zoning in the Town.  A more detailed list of topics is on the Planners Page.