Glacier National Park is rolling out a new web tool to help visitors traverse one of the busiest national parks in the country this summer.
The Recreation Access Display, to be colloquially referred to as the RAD, will feature live updates on all campgrounds, parking lots and vehicle access restrictions, along with weather.
“You have certain areas that get heavy congestion,” said Kristine Abbey, a public affairs assistant. “When (visitors) get to a campsite or trailhead, and there’s no place to park … they’re usually told they just have to go back.
“You can imagine how frustrating that is for people.”
The site is fairly bare bones, with a plain gray background and boxes separated into camping for the west and east side campgrounds with current status (open, closed, full) and the previous day's fill times.
Below sits the weather, also for the west and east sides as well as for Logan Pass.
Then, parking status, for eight parking lots, also with spots for the previous day’s fill times. And finally, a section for vehicle access restrictions in Many Glacier, North Fork and Two Medicine.
People can find the RAD by going to Glacier’s homepage on nps.gov/glac, then clicking on “Current Conditions in the Park” and scrolling down to find the RAD. The exact link is nps.gov/applications/glac/dashboard/.
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All of this is to help Glacier’s 3 million annual visitors find some ways to cope with crowded campgrounds, full parking lots and overstuffed entrances. The park has already experienced gridlocked traffic and full parking lots near Lake McDonald this summer, according to a press release.
“People have to sit there sometimes and it’s one-in, one-out,” Abbey said. “That has to be the worst way to spend their vacation.”
The access display is optimized for a computer web page, Abbey noted. Although it does work on mobile, the display is a little wonky, requiring users to scroll around as though they’re on a spreadsheet.
This, along with Glacier’s spotty cellphone and Wi-Fi coverage, make the RAD an imperfect solution, albeit the only one at this point, aside from perusing the park’s parking lot webcams for spots.
But the site will be as much for rangers and park staff as for visitors, Abbey said. Many visitors know to ask staff for the current conditions at campsites or parking lots, and those staff can use the RAD to guide them.
Abbey said it is important for the RAD to be phone-accessible, since live updates are only so helpful when they’re checked before driving to the park. She planned on jumping in her car to drive the park, checking RAD on her phone while she went as a test.
“That’s how people are really going to be using it,” Abbey said. “Is this really going to help people? It’s important to ask.”