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Businesses support June 1 opening for Glacier Park

| May 23, 2020 1:00 AM

[Editor’s Note: The Associated Chambers of Commerce of the Flathead Valley issued this joint letter of support to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.]

Thank you for your strong leadership and early, consistent action on combating COVID-19 in Montana. As a result of your initiatives, and with the support of the citizens of Montana, we are among the most well-positioned states in the country to take the steps you outlined on Tuesday. Governor Bullock, as you deliberate with health advisors, federal partners, and local officials, we would like to request your consideration of an additional item. On behalf of the undersigned organizations and the 3,526 businesses and organizations we represent, we invite you to give your most serious consideration to a targeted opening of Glacier National Park on June 1.

We think it makes sense, and will be less confusing to the traveling public, to open Glacier National Park on the same schedule as the Montana entrances to Yellowstone National Park. We assure you that we are committed to working with you, your agencies of state government, and the National Park Service to develop and communicate the proper messaging for our member businesses and visitors.

Governor, we understand the challenge with which you are faced to balance health and safety with economic and fiscal health. There is no doubt, however, about the economic impact of COVID-19 on the Montana economy. Over 100,000 Montana jobless claims have been filed since the beginning of this crisis in mid-March. The University of Montana BBER projects a loss of 75,000 jobs, on average, over 2020. They further project a shortfall in state personal income of $6.4 billion or 11.7 percent compared to pre-COVID projections. Additionally, BBER projects a slow recovery to the state economy for employment and personal income extending well beyond 2022. Moving up the Glacier National Park reopening schedule gives visitors, hospitality and food service sectors, and other sectors, a significant a head start on a better summer season.

Northwest Montana is benefited by a strong health care capacity. There has not been a reported COVID-19 case in Flathead County for over a month and there are no hospitalizations.

Kalispell Regional Healthcare was selected by the Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of an Alternate Care Facility to provide additional capacity in case of pandemic escalation. It is scheduled for completion at the end of May. Thanks to your actions, testing capabilities are increasing, personal protective equipment is well-supplied, and tracing ability is improving. In short, as the gateway communities for Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana, we are well-prepared to provide a safe reopening of Glacier National Park for residents, visitors, and employees.

For these reasons, the undersigned 12 chambers of commerce, economic development, and tourism organizations in Northwest Montana support a targeted reopening of Glacier National Park on June 1, 2020. We are confident that together we will find the right balance between reducing COVID-19 cases and returning Montanans to work. Thanks again for your leadership and dedication to the safety and prosperity of all Montanans.

—Rebekah King, Executive Director, Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce; Cameron Johnson, President Columbia Falls Area Chamber of Commerce; Blanche Flanagan, Executive Director Eureka Area Chamber of Commerce; Connie McCubbins, Executive Director Evergreen Chamber of Commerce; Joe Unterreiner, President and CEO Kalispell Chamber of Commerce; Diane Medler, Director Kalispell Convention and Visitor Bureau; Pam Carbonari, Executive Director Kalispell Business Improvement District & Kalispell Downtown Association; David Fetveit, President Lakeside-Somers Chamber of Commerce; Myranda Cravens, Executive Director Libby Chamber of Commerce; Jerry Meerkatz, President and CEO Montana West Economic Development; Carol Cunningham, Manager Polson Chamber of Commerce; Kevin Gartland, Executive Director Whitefish Chamber of Commerce.