National parks spread the word: Expect delays

E-mail and fliers are being used to warn vacationing motorists.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) -- Stuck in a long line of vehicles near a construction site, Darby Long took the delay in stride on a hot August day. He reclined in his SUV, dangled a foot out a window and tried to catch a short nap.
"For me, this hasn't been a big deal," said a slightly disheveled Long, of Charleston, S.C., trying to get a little hiking done at Yellowstone. "There are worse places to be stuck."
It may be the splendor and natural beauty that attract travelers like Long to Yellowstone and other national parks each summer.
But it's the road construction, the subsequent traffic delays and long lines that often keep them stalled.
Summer construction is a fact of life for many national parks -- and an inconvenience not all travelers take as well as Long. Mindful of that, the Park Service and some of the towns near park entrances are trying to make the construction a bit more bearable.
They're using tools like the Internet and e-mail, and old-fashioned methods like fliers and word of mouth to keep travelers aware of roadwork and delays -- all in hope of keeping frustration levels low.
Besides Yellowstone, where three large road constructions projects are under way, work has begun on what's expected to be the largest overhaul in decades on the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana.
In Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, crews are in the first of a planned two-year, $5 million project for 17 miles of major road improvement.
And work has also begun on a stretch of the scenic Beartooth Highway, near Yellowstone's least-visited northeast gate and the town of Cooke City, Mont.
Road work is typically undertaken each summer in Yellowstone, with this year not dramatically different from years past, park spokesman Al Nash said.
Having three projects under way in relatively close proximity, though, may make it seem to travelers that there's more work going on than usual, he said.
Yellowstone employees now distribute road information fliers with maps at park entrances. Local business and tourism officials send faxes and e-mails to motor clubs and other contacts. And park concession workers provide information in park lodges and in confirmations sent in advance to visitors who've booked stays.
Sylvan Pass
One of the potential headaches for visitors in Yellowstone this year is on Sylvan Pass, near the park's eastern entrance.
It is where Long ended up lounging for nearly a half-hour on his way to find a hiking trail.
The pass is a winding stretch of road offering beautiful scenery but potentially dangerous conditions. It was along this stretch last month that a mudslide buried a portion of the road, trapping tourists and closing the east entrance for several days. The cost of the pass project is about $26 million, Nash said.
Last month, tourists clicking onto Wyoming Travel & amp; Tourism's Web site were able to link to a Park Service site and get the latest on the days-long closure of Yellowstone's east entrance because of the mudslide, officials said.
In Cody, about 50 miles east of the park, signs nearing the park alert travelers of the work ahead and visitors also can find out about delays at the local chamber of commerce or businesses.
Gene Bryan, executive director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, said a common complaint from tourists about the work on Sylvan Pass is that the road closes early and some visitors cannot make it to their evening destinations.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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