The recent News&Guide headline “No Solutions on the docket for Teton Pass mayhem” suggests little to nothing is being done to address Teton Pass parking issues. Teton Backcountry Alliance begs to differ. While we agree that the incident involving the Wyoming Department of Transportation truck is indeed disturbing and recently reported altercations related to parking disagreements at the summit parking area are worrisome, much has and is being done to address congestion issues during our pandemic winter.
Together with the U.S. Forest Service, the B-T Avalanche Center, WYDOT and others, Teton Backcountry Alliance is distributing printed materials to visitors that outline the need for responsible use. Educational signage has been installed at major access points. Working in collaboration with the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Teton Backcountry Alliance has engaged six volunteer Teton backcountry ambassadors to assist Jay Pistono for the rest of the season. The Travel and Tourism Board of Jackson has funded production of several short films to outline safety and humility in the backcountry.
Most importantly, the vast majority of our backcountry community members are stepping up to the challenge by being patient in Teton Pass parking areas, waiting their turn, staying off roadways, leashing dogs and behaving respectfully. In at least two of the interviews conducted for the News&Guide article, informants reported that “solutions” are best not found in formal regulations and fines, but in a shift in norms and behavior.
From our observations, the public is responding to the challenges of Teton Pass congestion admirably, and should be commended. Such observations were mentioned in the article only as a footnote under a misleading and sensationalized headline. As many predicted, we have more recreationists parking on Teton Pass and at trailheads and pullouts throughout the region this winter. Teton Backcountry Alliance acknowledges that most members of our backcountry community who are doing a fine job self-regulating should be thanked.
As already reported, Teton Backcountry Alliance, management agencies and other organizations are working diligently to improve highway and parking infrastructure, including redesigning parking areas at Teton Pass (e.g., recent submission of the FLAP grant). Realizing these solutions will require time, patience, and perseverance.
Kim Havell, Josh Metten, Michael Parris, Peggie de Pasquale, Jay Pistono, Thomas Turiano and Gary Kofinas
Teton Backcountry Alliance Steering Committee