On the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone National Park, a flood led to an evacuation and closing of the park, and Idaho Falls is helping carry the load for visitors.
Chip Schwarze, the CEO of the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, says the influx of visitors has put a strain on the community.
“They estimate more than two and a half million travelers going to Yellowstone every year come through Idaho Falls, so it’s a busy time for us already,” Schwarze said, “Closing the park created a huge strain on our local resources because everybody that would’ve been camped or staying in a hotel in the park, is now homeless.”
Schwarze says the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce sent a list of all their available hotels and campgrounds to Yellowstone for their guests.
“And while I’d like to say that we provided a huge resource, we found yesterday our hotels were already booked at 92 percent,” Schwarze said.
Yellowstone anticipates more than 10,000 people displaced from the park. Schwarze says they’re doing what they can to accommodate those people.
“Locally, our visitor center has been inundated with folks for the last three days. Our hotels are busy and booked solid. Our restaurants are having good days. It’s bringing a lot more people back to Idaho falls,” Schwarze said.
Above all, Schwarze encourages locals to have patience during the influx of visitors.
“Be patient with everybody,” Schwarze said, “Be kind. As sad as it is that you have to wait 40 minutes to get your dinner at your restaurant, these folks’ vacation have been ruined. You know, let’s just show that good old western hospitality that we’re famous for and let’s make a bad situation for them as good as possible.”