The community of Cody has always had a symbiotic relationship with Yellowstone National Park. Folks coming from the eastern part of the country have to pass through Cody on the way to the country’s first National Park, so it’s a natural place to stop, get gas, spend the night, regroup and get ready for adventure.
The appreciation that this town has for the National Park system has been expressed for years – in part through a tradition that was started about 60 years ago by the Coe family, a prominent eastern family who had fallen in love with the Yellowstone region and made Cody their second home. Their social relationship with the management of Yellowstone Park soon expanded to involve Cody’s business community, and soon “National Parks Day” became an annual event in Cody. Usually held in mid- to late May, it offered both the staffers at Yellowstone, as well as the locals who have an interest in the Park, an opportunity to exchange information and get acquainted. These days “Parks Day” incorporates an evening reception, business meeting and community lunch. And it’s not just Yellowstone National Park that is recognized anymore – we also invite the Superintendent from Grand Teton National Park, the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area and the Shoshone National Forest to participate in the event.
While the majority of those who live in this region are grateful for the close proximity of the natural wonder of Yellowstone, much of this “symbiotic” relationship with the Park involves contentious issues that can create tension between the National Park Service and the locals. Case in point – the headlines in the local papers right now are all about the number of snowmobiles allowed in the park during the winter. The National Park Service wants to reduce the number allowed per day so as not to stress out the animals in the Park. The locals want to increase the number allowed to boost the winter economy. The locals, as well as others who have enjoyed winter in Yellowstone in the past, are frustrated because the Park Service won’t allow snowmobile trips into the Park without a guide, but those licensed guides are few and far between and can be expensive. The Park Service is concerned about the safety of snowmobile travelers through the East Entrance because of the number of avalanches that occur at Sylvan Pass – as a result, the pass closes unexpectedly when there is avalanche danger. That also impacts snowmobile travel through the East Entrance, because a scheduled ride into the Park could be cancelled at the last minute.
But the benefits of being neighbors with the Park Service far outweighs the issues – we locals can drive an hour down the road and be in one of the most geographically amazing locations on the planet! The wildlife and scenery that we experience on the way are an added bonus. Plus, we get the benefit of meeting so many of the folks that stop over here on their way to Yellowstone – so much of our enjoyment of the tourist season comes from the delight that our visitors feel just being here. The joy just spreads!
So this May 23rd, we’ll be meeting with the caretakers of our public lands during “Parks Day”. Because of our National Parks, we are privileged to host visitors from all over the world – we hope to see YOU soon!
Lovin’ life in Buffalo Bill’s Country,
Corrie N. Cody