- Posted October 14, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Shutdown over: What next?
Life in Gardiner, MT during the shutdown
Such as our 24 year-old grizzly boar, named Scarface. Because the White Pines did not produce many nuts this year, grizzlies are more visible than normal as they seek to fatten up for winter. Additionally, we have missed much of the fall elk rut, which is a prime time for photography in Yellowstone. Not to mention the fall colors and the first snows over Yellowstone.
And, so I sit in my 21' travel trailer, watching winter come on and wondering when and if I will be allowed back into the park.
But, the impact on my life is much less severe than that of the businesses and employees in and around Yellowstone. Gardiner, MT is a ghost town right now. Motels are empty, restaurants were forced to close early and most of the town is out of work. There are no movie theaters or other forms of entertainment in Gardiner. There are people with businesses that count on park visitors to keep going, and there are some outfitters and ranchers.
Businesses in the small towns of Silver Gate and Cooke City are closed because their towns are cut off from the rest of the world due to the shutdown. That is, unless the Chief Joseph Highway is open and people can go all of the way around to Cody, WY and back up to those towns. Residents of those towns, if they have residence stickers, are allowed to travel through the park, without stopping, but if they never got around to getting a sticker, they are trapped. The impact worsens daily, particularly with winter coming on and the Chief Joseph Highway being less and less reliable.
All about me are people who live pay check to pay check and who do not know if they will be able to pay their rent or car payment, let alone buy groceries. Xanterra workers went from a paycheck, free living space and free food, to scrambling to pay rent and buy groceries on half of the money that they would have received from working. That half of the money comes from unemployment.
Yesterday, we had a small, peaceful protest at the North Gate to Yellowstone and Chief Deputy Ranger Nick Herring, in an on camera interview with a Billings news station, when asked if he had a message for Washington, said, "Do your jobs."
Herring and other law enforcement rangers are working without pay at this time.
As the shutdown continues, my fears grow. Will my social security disability be affected? Those on social security are getting paid but if we default, will I get paid on the fourth Wednesday of the month? Will people be out on the streets? Do I move into winter housing and keep my plans to spend another winter in Yellowstone? Or, do I move on? But, where would I go when my journey is about the national parks? So much uncertainty. Frustration and anger is growing, as is my embarrassment to be an American.
Photo: Deputy Chief Ranger, Nick Herring, Yellowstone National Park, with a message to Washington, "Do your jobs." Photo by Deby Dixon