Yellowstone commits to boosting employee housing

JACKSON, Wyo. – Under direction from new superintendent Cam Sholly, Yellowstone National Park has initiated a major, multimillion-dollar housing improvement effort that will substantially upgrade National Park Service employee housing across the park.

Like Jackson Hole, park officials are eyeing housing as a way to invest in its future. About half of Yellowstone’s 800 employees live in park housing, many in extremely remote areas.

Over the next two years, the park will spend tens of millions of dollars to demolish and replace trailers with high-quality modular cabins, upgrade aging utility lines, perform site improvements including landscaping, and invest in other housing improvement projects.

“Our ability to attract and retain talent in Yellowstone is strongly tied to the availability and affordability of housing options in and around the park,” Sholly said. “Thanks to the support of Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and the National Park Service, we now have the funding and support needed to help us begin addressing one of the biggest issues facing Yellowstone’s workforce. The goals we have outlined in Yellowstone’s housing improvement strategy work not only to replace trailers between the 1960s and 1980s, but also to improve the condition of historic and other housing assets, while also looking for better ways to respond to the changing real estate markets in our gateway communities, which have limited private housing options for our employees.”

Current seasonal employee housing trailer. Photo: Jacob W. Frank, NPS

The effort will focus on four goals:

1) Replace 64 outdated trailers with high-quality modular cabins. Yellowstone currently has 64 trailers, built between 1960-1983, that house 80-100 employees annually. The condition of each trailer is extremely substandard and immediate replacement is necessary. In 2020, the park will replace about 35 trailers at Old Faithful, Lake Village, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Bechler with high-quality modular cabins. In 2021, the remaining trailers will be replaced. All replacements will be in existing developed areas.

2) Improve the condition of 150 non-trailer and non-historic housing units. Yellowstone is investing millions to upgrade dilapidated employee housing units between 2020 and 2023. Many of these units have not had improvements in decades. Planned improvements range from roofing and siding replacements, to major interior work including new flooring, better insulation, and improved heating systems. Over 50 improvement projects are scheduled for 2020.

3) Rehabilitate deteriorating historic homes. The park intends to improve the condition of a wide range of historic housing structures, many that date back to the late 1800s in Fort Yellowstone, a National Historic Landmark, and in other areas of the park. The park is in the process of conducting necessary condition assessments, historic structure reports, and consultations to determine the funding needed and prioritization and execution timelines of this goal.

4) Add new housing capacity. The lack of available housing in surrounding communities is substantially impacting workforce recruitment. Additionally, park visitation has increased 45% since 2000 and requires more staffing to manage park operations. For these reasons, the park is assessing the number of additional housing units that may be needed. New housing units would only be placed in existing developed areas.

Poor condition of Fort Yellowstone buildings: historic employee housing. Photo: Courtesy NPS

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