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Grand Teton Officials Gauge Public Comment on Transportation Plan


    Grand Teton is one of those national parks that, when you first set eyes upon it, comes close to literally knocking you over with its beauty. A dramatic mix of Western landscape and riveting mountainscapes, the park redefines "breathtaking" and "jaw-dropping."
    Not surprisingly, Grand Teton struggles with crowds at the height of the summer season. The main roads -- the Teton Park Road and U.S.  26/89/191 -- are simply not well-designed for today's traffic loads. The roads are too narrow to safely accommodate cyclists, ponderous RVs, and other motor vehicles, and too often folks heading between Jackson and Yellowstone drive way too fast.
    So it's not surprising that park planners are trying to come up with a solution via a new transportation plan. More than 2,500 people commented on the proposals to improve transportation with shuttle buses and bike paths, but consensus wasn't distilled through the process.
    No, that would have made the job for park planners too easy. Instead, they'll have to try to balance comments from those who want more miles of bike paths, those who worry those paths could stress wildlife, and those opposed to change.

    Agreement seemed to come on the question of shuttle buses, which many of the 2,677 who commented said would help reduce congestion and air pollution. But while park planners proposed 23 miles of bike pathways, many of those who reviewed the plan had sought twice that amount.
    At the same time, wildlife biologists fear bike paths would intrude too closely upon wildlife habitat. At the National Elk Refuge, Manager Barry Reiswig said matter-of-factly that "we're opposed to the development of any separated pathways in the park."
    Over at the Wildlife Conservation Society, biologists Joel and Kim Berger worry that the pathways would, in effect, trade "wildlife habitat for human habitat."
    It definitely will be interesting to see how park planners blend those comments into an acceptable plan.

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