The Park County tourism boom meant that Buffalo Bill State Park officials saw an opportunity to build some RV campsites with the money they had leftover from the CARES Act. However, residents of the neighborhood in Park County’s Bartlett Lane were shocked when the park administrators decided to add 40 temporary spaces to the South Fork of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
State park officials decided to suspend the plans after receiving a lot of complaints.
Last week, stakes and tractor mowing were used to mark new areas. Meanwhile, homeowners in an adjacent subdivision and seasonal residents of the Big Horn Basin Boat Club were unaware that the development was being planned.
Dave Glenn, deputy director for the state parks, stated, “We probably should have done better with sharing information on a front end, just explaining how it’s going.”
Glenn was driving to Laramie when he received a call from an angry person. He believed that the person thought “we were permanently setting up 100 campsites along Bartlett Lane”.
“It’s a big, big mess now that we’ve got to dig out of,” he said.
Glenn stated that rumors were born out of a lack of information. Residents tried to guess what was going on at the temporary site that would house 40 RVs. However, it was rumored that there were 100 permanent spots. Jason Byer, a resident of the area, started a petition on change.org to oppose this plan. It already has over 400 signatures. Many signed the petition to slow down the state’s roll. It worked. To pacify the residents, the state has put the RV park plans on hold.
Byer’s family has been living in the area for many decades. He has taken extreme measures to try to keep Bartlett Lane peaceful. A large parcel of land near the park was recently up for sale. There were concerns that it might be used to build a subdivision. Byer and his partner purchased the land before it was too late. They built two houses instead of letting dozens of new homes flood the area.
He said, “We both have small children and want to give them an agricultural experience.” “We love the South Fork’s openness.”
He is well aware of the need for more camping spots. After spending a year looking for the best spots for his family, and their large pull-behind camper, he also tested the remote working ability. He doesn’t want the Bartlett Lane day-use area to become a busy campground.
Byer stated that “The North Fork” is the best place to do this. There’s ample space to expand an existing location, noting that it’s non-residential and an “already busy highway.”
Glenn stated that there was always a plan to solicit public input before making new sites permanent. However, state park leaders are moving fast to respond to current demand.
“Our motto is one more night, one cheeseburger. Glenn stated that the gateway community is constantly trying to convince people to stay longer and purchase more.
Brooks Jordan, Big Horn District Manager for Wyoming State Parks, stated that the Bartlett Lane area is ideal for RV camping. He noted that the land is flat and easy to access for RVs. It has stunning mountain views and is close to shore fishing, boat ramps, outdoor recreation, and downtown Cody’s amenities.
He also said that state park officials always wanted to hold public hearings and examine the site’s usage before making any permanent changes.
He stated, “We want to remember the concerns of residents.”
Byer fears that once temporary spots have been used, there will be no turning back.
He stated that “the whole point of the petition is to stop construction so that we could have these discussions.”
In recent years, it has been more important to capture tourist dollars. Nearly 17% of Yellowstone National Park visitors enter through the East Gate at Cody. The park has set attendance records every month since late last summer and fall, supporting Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly’s prediction of another record year.
It is crucial to develop the park’s east side facilities, as traffic problems plague the three main entrances.
Sholly stated at a June event, “Let’s consider that one for a moment.” “Five entrances on 2.2 million acres, more than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. But at any time, 60% of Yellowstone’s visitation is in the western corridor.”
Glenn stated that it is crucial to provide space for campers and RVs to grow Cody’s tourism sector, especially considering the state’s slumping mineral extraction industry. The North Fork camping area at Buffalo Bill State Park has been doubled in capacity. The park used to turn away visitors every day, restricting visitors’ choices near the East Gate. Unless park managers find new ways of opening space, the facility is almost sold out for the entire season.
Before moving forward with any plans, park officials will hold a meeting with property owners in the area at 6 p.m. Monday, August 9. This meeting will be held at Shreve Lodge in the park to discuss temporary campsite expansion plans.