Governor 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.
Adding 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.
After 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.
Perhaps 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.
The National Park Service is currently analyzing feedback from more than 3,000 respondents including Save Historic Jackson Hole. Their Preferred Alternative C includes a 200-vehicle limit at any given time for the 8-mile corridor, no inclusion of a bike path, and a reduced speed limit to 20 mph for much of the from Teton Village to Moose.
The Teton Village Association (TVA) has aggressively challenged the Park Service decision and process. They have hired attorneys and may sue to protect their business and commercial interests alive.
SHJH is keeping a close eye on developments.