With the closing of a very busy year, I would like to
take this time to tell you a little about what has happened at Big Hole
and Bear Paw in 2011.
The biggest thing is that we are now in our newly
remodeled Visitor Center. We closed this building for much needed repairs
in June 2010 and did not move back in until the middle of November 2011.
That meant 17 months of operating our visitor operations out of a
converted house, but we did the best we could. We had exhibits in the
dining room and garage and showed the movie in the bedrooms. It seemed to
work and while some people who visited the park would not stop at the
temporary Visitor Center and brought down our visitation by over 15%,
those that did stop in and talk to the staff and take the time to join a
ranger led program commented very favorable on what we were doing in spite
of not having a real visitor center.
The 1968 visitor center was in need of a lot of work. The roof leaked, we
did not have a fire suppression system and the building was tired and
getting expensive to heat and cool. Thanks to the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the National Park Service's Repair and
Rehabilitation program we were able to get the funds and along with
funding for new exhibits that were installed in late September, we now
have an energy efficient building that meets all museum standards and
exhibits that are cohesive rather than the random.
The park just completed this week, with the help of the Washington office,
the very first State of the Parks report for the Big Hole and the National
Park System. This document summarizes the natural and cultural resources
of the park along with visitor experience and park infrastructure. As soon
as the director is presented the report it will be made public and I will
send out the link for everyone to see what is going on and what kind of
shape Big Hole is in. (Webmaster's Note: we will post the link to this
publish the report on this website.)
This August at Bear Paw, the management team of Nez Perce NHP met in the
park with the Bear Paw and Big Hole lead rangers and others to reexamine
the Bear Paw Environmental Assessment for Visitor Services that has not
been finalized. The team walked all over the battlefield, looking at land
that now has scenic easements on it protecting the view from here on out
and looking at new possibilities for enhancing visitor services at the
site. A newly revised Environmental Assessment will be released later in
2012 and everyone will have time to read and comment on it.
As far as programming went in 2011, the parks had an up and down year. Big
Hole hosted the second year, Coyote Camp in May. This year 18 schools and
almost 900 children came to the park the last week of the month to go on
ranger lead programs, meet Nez Perce people and even though it snowed or
rained everyday all the schools said that they could not wait to come back
in 2012. Due to flooding in North Dakota and the subsequent long delays on
Amtrak's Empire Builder, Bear Paw suspended the very popular Trails &
Rails Program after just a few trips. The line has now been repaired and
we are looking forward to a good summer of ranger programs on the train.
We expect 2012 to be a very good year for both units. The Big Hole visitor
center will have its formal dedication in the late spring and everyone is
invited to come. The summer programs are always interesting and if you
find yourself in the area, stop by and say hello.
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