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$16 Million Campaign Launched To Rejuvenate Jenny Lake Area At Grand Teton National Park


The Jenny Lake area of Grand Teton National Park is one of the most popular sites in the park. A public-private partnership aims to spend $16 million on restoration work in the area in time for the National Park Service's Centennial in 2016. NPS photo.

With federal dollars increasingly scarce, friends groups are becoming more and more vital to national parks. An example of how valuable comes today from Grand Teton National Park, where a joint public-private partnership was announced to raise $16 million to rejuvenate the Jenny Lake area of the park.

The partnership was announced this morning by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott, and Grand Teton National Park Foundation President Leslie Mattson.

The Inspiring Journeys Campaign has a goal of renovating the Jenny Lake area at the foot of the Tetons in advance of the National Park Service’s Centennial in 2016.

“Through the power of this partnership, we will help improve the visitor experience for the nearly two million people who use the visitor center and trails in the Jenny Lake area each year,” said Secretary Jewell. “Renovating trails and protecting habitat in the heart of Grand Teton National Park is a fitting symbol of the projects needed nationwide to prepare our parks for the National Park Service’s upcoming Centennial in 2016 – and the next 100 years after that.”

Through the Inspiring Journeys Campaign, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation has a goal of raising $13 million, while the Park Service will contribute $3 million from cyclic maintenance funding. Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis has signed a formal partnership agreement to allow the foundation to raise the funds for the park. Secretary Jewell announced that $5 million in private funding has already been raised.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to connect millions of visitors to Jenny Lake, one of the National Park Service’s centerpieces,” said Ms. Mattson. “Through showing the transformation private philanthropy will bring to Grand Teton, our centennial campaign will inspire others to be bold and share their vision for wilderness protection and education in national parks throughout the country.”

One of the most popular destinations for visitors to Grand Teton National Park, the Jenny Lake area sits at the base of the Teton Range. Its trails offer visitors hikes to easily accessible, yet unforgettably beautiful backcountry destinations such as Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and Cascade Canyon.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, many of the trails in the Jenny Lake area have been compromised by poor drainage, erosion, and heavy use. Inspiring Journeys will fund significant work on Jenny Lake’s network of backcountry trails to enhance hiking options and reverse years of accumulated trail damage, providing a safer and more inspiring experience for hikers of all abilities.

“The park simply could not complete a renovation and improvement project of this magnitude without the generous support of the community and the strong partnership we have forged with Grand Teton National Park Foundation and our other partners,” said Superintendent Gibson Scott. “In the spirit of the CCC, we are excited to seek opportunities to engage and employ youth on this project to help create the next generation of conservation leaders.”

The campaign will revitalize aging routes, introduce a series of looped paths, and create a trail system that is easy to maintain, yet retains the historic feel that has long characterized the Jenny Lake region. An improved west boat dock will provide additional gathering and queuing space for visitors. Improvements at Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point will give these key destinations predictable surfaces for walking, defined space for viewing, and natural seating areas for resting and soaking in the views.

In addition to critical trail rehabilitation, revitalization of welcoming facilities and resource restoration work, a comprehensive interpretation, education, and orientation plaza will be created. The interpretive plaza – a destination in itself that will be similar in scale and character to the current visitor complex – will offer exhibits, topographic relief models, and interactive features to engage and educate.

Sec. Jewell Commits To Wyoming Land Purchase

In an unrelated development the other day, Secretary Jewell announced that the federal government is committed to fulfilling an agreement with Wyoming to negotiate the purchase of the remaining 1,280 acres of state lands within Grand Teton and transfer ownership to the Park Service. This move ensures that these lands will not be sold at public auction, a move that could result in residential homes and commercial development inside the park in areas currently home to bison, elk, moose, deer, bears, wolves, and pronghorn.

Last December the federal government spent $16 million to acquire 86 acres of "school trust lands" within the park from the state of Wyoming. Yet to be acquired are another 1,280 acres.

At the time of statehood in 1890, the federal government granted Wyoming sections of land throughout the state to be held in trust to provide revenue for its public schools. Approximately 1,366 acres of school trust lands were subsequently included within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park when the park was enlarged to its present-day size in 1950. The state of Wyoming also held title to 40 acres of subsurface mineral rights within the park. Because of their location in Grand Teton, the State could not fully realize the economic value of these lands as required by its constitution.

Terms for the purchase of state school lands within Grand Teton National Park were set forth in a 2010 agreement between the Interior Department and the state of Wyoming. This agreement specified the order in which state parcels would be acquired, and the timeframes for doing so. In April 2011, the first purchase was made with the State receiving $2,000 for a 40-acre parcel of subsurface mineral rights.

“We are thrilled that Secretary Jewell has committed to making the Grand Teton lands purchase a reality, and demonstrating strong conservation leadership to fulfill the agreement made by her predecessor, Secretary Ken Salazar," said Sharon Mader, the Grand Teton program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. "Protecting these critical lands is fundamental to passing Grand Teton National Park down to future generations intact, and the exchange has been a top priority of NPCA’s for the past five years.

"... NPCA celebrates this announcement, and the tenacious efforts by DOI and the Wyoming government to work towards making this vision a reality," she added. "Once completed, this agreement will represent a win-win for the American public and the people of Wyoming."


I applaud these efforts to pull together public donations to help "maintain" a park like the Grand Tetons. I am somewhat perplexed, however, at the price tag- $16 million?. Or at least I was until I got to the part about a " a comprehensive interpretation, education, and orientation plaza will be created". I suspect that will suck up much of the money. (Kind of like the $23 mil Santa Monica visitor center). Is that really "natural" or necessary?

But then, I guess it does guarantee a lot of park ranger jobs and ongoing maintenance expenses.

Funny thing about the Park Service wanting to do Park Service stuff.

Is Park Service stuff building edifaces to keep rangers employed?

In 1969, on graduating college, my friend and I camped for two weeks at Jenny Lake, hiking deep into the mountains every day. It was gorgeous. It was memorable. It was another of those experiences that changed my life. Then came the era of Park Service "improvements," among them the new parking lot at Jenny Lake. In 1991, that was also hyped as "revolutionary." In truth, the wilderness "feel" of Jenny Lake had been destroyed. In this latest proposal, will the parking lot finally be eliminated and Jenny Lake restored to the wilderness I knew? If so, why does this fund-raising campaign not say so, instead proposing an "interpretive plaza" for Jenny Lake? Pardon me, but that sounds like an excuse to keep the parking lot. Ditto the "interactive" exhibits. Again, how about learning to interact with greater sensitivity to the wilderness we had--and destroyed?

Over the years, I have watched Grand Teton deteriorate from a national park into a park virtually run by the locals. Nothing against the new immigrants of Jackson, but Grand Teton National Park is not about getting your way. Beginning in the late 1920s, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., purchased 35,000 acres in Jackson Hole precisely to ward off localized thinking--and development. There is your problem at Jenny Lake. Call it a city park, but don't call it a national park, when you start talking about "[connecting] millions of visitors" to interactive plazas. I watched it happen in the 1990s as the roads were widened and straightened, too. Then came the bicycle path--we want visitor safety!--and suddenly, Grand Teton was that city park.

Without downsizing the development at Jenny Lake--without removing it entirely--this "campaign" is just more of the same. Gosh, won't it be nice to take the kids to those "interactive features?" And, with just a few more wireless towers, they can tweet and twitter all the way!

You think I'm wrong? Go look at that parking lot. Go look at that bicycle path splitting the valley floor. None of it should be there, and I do mean none of it, if by Grand Teton we mean a NATIONAL park.

Fortunately, I got to see Jenny Lake when it was wilderness. I didn't have a cell phone, just a sleeping bag. The roads were narrow and twisting. They asked about priorities, too. It took time to get around Jackson Hole. All "interaction" was with the mountains. No one needed an "exhibit" to tell them where they were.

The loss of that is what should concern America. Until it does, no amount of money will restore what we have lost in our obsession with being inclusive. Either we love the mountains or we do not. If we loved them--truly loved them--we would not need to sell ourselves on all these projects. We would know--as in believe--that what Jenny Lake really needs is something money can no longer buy. Fix the high country. That is good. After all, Jenny Lake is the gateway to that glory. But the rest of it should be shelved for a history lesson on what Grand Teton National Park was meant to be--and no longer is.

These projects don't really generate jobs for 'rangers', or even maintenance personnel, ec. They do help the hundreds of more highly paid landscape architects, engineers, project managers, contracting officers, their numerous supervisors, and the rest of the NPS development constituency justify their existence, while actual rangers and maintenance people are being sequestered.

It seems "rejuvenation" has become the new NPS euphemism for MORE. During my career in the so-called Maintenance Division, we never accomplished more than 75% of facility annual maintenance, but we built new facilities every year for decades, and managers were promoted for it. I think the multibillion dollar NPS national maintenance backlog is largely self-inflicted.

I agree, thank you for your comment Mr. Alfred Runte. In fact all of this hyped restoration will eventually lead to even more need for further development down the road, including additional parking, utilities, etc. Hopefully the money will not be raised.

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