GARDINER – Four representatives from gateway communities to Montana National Parks testified at a hearing held by U. S. Senator Steve Daines in Gardiner on Friday.
In Gardiner, the school superintendent said that affordable housing is the biggest issue. Expensive and rising property values have led families to depart the community and the school enrollment to drop below 200 for the first time in many years. She asked the park to consider a land swap to provide space for affordable housing.
Marysue Costello from the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce said her community has been greatly affected by wildland fires in recent years. She asked for local involvement in fire management decisions.
Deb Purvis of Cooke City said the challenge for her community is sanitation. There is no public wastewater facility and space is running out for needed septic fields just at a time when tourism growth is surging forward. She says the number of people using restroom facilities is increasing by thousands of people each year.
Also present was new Park Superintendent Cam Shirley, who, in just his second day on the job, said he wants to make sure the best management decisions are being made to deal with the growing visitation. He noted that the number of park visitors is up 40 percent in the past 10 years.
Daines said he understood how important good schools are in attracting new employees and families.