The comment period for the Environmental Assessment on the proposed Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Management Plan has been extended for a month.
The comment period initially was to end Oct. 6, but was pushed back to Nov. 6 based on the amount of interest from the public and requests received during a public meeting in Kalispell on Sept. 17, according to park officials
“We appreciate the feedback we’ve received thus far and look forward to hearing from more people as we develop proposals for transportation, visitor use, recreation experience, and resource protection along the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor,” Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow said in a news release.
Portions of the plan include a reservation system for the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor; timed entry permits at entrances; adding more parking spots; parking permits for popular spots; limiting commercially guided hiking tours; expanding shuttle service; and making some trails one-way.
The measures are under consideration by Glacier National Park officials as they seek ways to alleviate congestion brought on by an unprecedented increase in visitation.
Pete Webster, deputy superintendent for the park, said he hasn’t seen the comments already submitted, and doesn’t know how many have been registered. But at the public meeting in Kalispell, about 200 people showed up and offered possible ways to change park management to alleviate overcrowding that hadn’t been considered previously.
“There were a fair amount of differing ideas; a handful of interesting ones and a handful of intriguing ones that weren’t necessarily put out in the plan,” Webster said. “I don’t have any that jump out at me right now, but a lot were interesting ideas, and we wanted to offer more time for people to have the ability to share them.
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“The more voices of the public we hear, the better we can make wise decisions relating to the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor and the park as well.”
The goal of the plan is to provide a high-quality visitor experience while protecting the park’s resources. It’s hoped that the proposals will allow for predominantly free-flowing traffic in the 50-mile road corridor, with occasional congestion that doesn’t compromise safety and emergency responses.
Between 2015 and 2017, 3.3 million people visited Glacier, which was a 40% increase — about one million people — during that time. During the peak season, visitors have endured two-hour wait periods for shuttles and faced long lines for basic facilities like restrooms and information desks. A record number of vehicle crashes occurred in 2019, and keeping up with disposing human waste “has become a challenge,” park officials noted.
Webster said the management plan process started in 2012, so park managers figured that adding a month to the comment period wouldn’t slow down the process much. The Hungry Horse News reported that during the Sept. 17 public meeting, Mow said the park has no budget or funding for implementing the plan anyway.
Webster said they’ve been asked to have a public meeting on the east side of the park near Browning, but he’s not sure they will be able to make that happen.
“But that’s another facet of why we are extending the comment period,” he said.
The plan is currently available for public review and comment on the National Park Service Planning website.