By Deb Courson Smith

The summer travel season kickoff is this weekend, and according to one consumer survey, half of us want to get away, at least for an overnight trip.

Yellowstone National Park’s busiest season is summer, and while not all roads are open yet, visitors are welcome this weekend. Craig Mackey, director of government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association, is encouraging people to visit a national park this summer, to demonstrate how popular they are at a time when budget cuts are threatening operations.

“By keeping those parks open, keeping that recreation infrastructure open, you are feeding a much larger economy – that cannot be outsourced, cannot be sent overseas.”

The survey also shows many people plan to stay closer to home because of high gas prices. That sets the stage for more visits to all sorts of public lands in the region. Mackey points out that private entities have been pitching in to support funding for those public spaces. He says across the country, there have been at least 30 initiatives to protect open space on the ballot, and more than 80 percent of them have passed.

“And if we look at this collaboratively, we can build and maintain a very dynamic recreation infrastructure, that supports a very dynamic recreation economy.”

According to the National Park Service, Yellowstone visitors spend an average of $840 during their trip – and Montana’s Gallatin and Park Counties see the most spending in the area. Mackey’s group estimates recreation contributes $730 billion to state and local economies every year across the country.

—-
Memorial Day Weekend Camping Opportunities on the Gallatin National Forest:

Although runoff and heavy snowpack are affecting some roads, trails, and recreation areas on the Gallatin National Forest, many campgrounds remain open and ready for use this Memorial Day weekend. The following campgrounds are currently open:

Highway 89, Paradise Valley – Pine Creek
Yankee Jim Canyon – Canyon
Outside the community of Gardiner – Eagle Creek
Hyalite Canyon – Langhor
Bridger Mountains – Battle Ridge
Highway 191, Gallatin Canyon – Spire Rock, Greek Creek, Swan Creek, Moose Creek, Red Cliff
West Yellowstone – Bakers Hole, Rainbow Point, Lonesomehurst, Spring Creek
Quake Lake – Cabin Creek, Beaver Creek

Weather conditions on the Forest are changing quickly, and hazardous conditions can develop quickly. The campgrounds listed above are open now, but visitors should contact the appropriate Ranger District before their trip to verify current conditions. Many roads and trails are still inaccessible, and creeks and rivers can swell rapidly. Roads and trails that are passable early in the day may become unsafe in the afternoon as rivers and creeks rise due to increased snowmelt.

For the latest weather information including current stream forecasts and flood potential visit the National Weather Service website: wrh.noaa.gov.