WEST YELLOWSTONE – Yellowstone National Park gateway towns have reacted to the ripple impacts of sequestration on Yellowstone National Park. Add West to the list.

On Monday, March 26, the community of West Yellowstone sent their town grader and operator to assist with the removal of ice and snow under the direction of the Yellowstone Park Service, according to a statement released by the town.

Once ice has been removed and roadways declared safe for general wheeled traffic use, the Park Service will open the west entrance gate at West Yellowstone by April 26, which is also a fee-free day into the Park as part of the National Parks Week Celebration.

This is the latest date the west entrance will open, according to the statement. Any earlier opening date is dependent on weather and ice conditions.

Under the federal cuts, Yellowstone gateways were advised there would be a delay in starting the normal spring plowing schedule. This delay affected the usual opening dates at West Yellowstone, Cody and Jackson as well as east access to Cooke City over the National Scenic Byway, Beartooth Highway.

West Yellowstone is traditionally is the first gateway to open in spring, primarily because of the lower elevation levels on the west side of the Park. Under normal years the West entrance opens as much as three-weeks before any of the others. It’s followed by Cody in the first week of May, Jackson by the second week and Cooke City soon thereafter.

Those communities, whose scheduled opening dates were delayed due to the budget cuts, were able to pull together resources and raise the necessary funding for plowing sections of the roads near the east and south entrances. This restored their originally scheduled spring opening dates.

Ice and snow conditions on roads from West Yellowstone to Madison Junction and from Madison Junction to Norris and Mammoth will determine the start of “cycle only” days. This is a unique opportunity for cyclists, who are allowed to ride park roads prior to the vehicle opening on April 26.

Note: Facilities and services are not available and cell phone access is extremely limited during this time. Riders must be prepared to be fully self-sufficient.