New park preserve open
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
June 23, 2008
Friends and family of the late Laurance S. Rockefeller dedicated about 1,100 acres of Grand Teton National Park in his memory Saturday, marking the official opening of his namesake preserve on the former Grand Teton National Park.
The private ceremony was, for many, the first glimpse of the preserve’s visitor center, which opened to the public Sunday. The rest of the preserve, including eight miles of trails leading to and around Phelps Lake, opened to the public last fall.
Rockefeller’s daughter, Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky, said the JY Ranch served as a retreat for her father throughout his life, including during his honeymoon in 1934.
“Dad loved the JY Ranch,” she said. “As we all began to come out here, we began to share his passion.”
Waletzky said her father believed strongly that the preservation of wilderness is “preservation of the world” and called upon lawmakers to fully fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund — which provides money to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands.
She said she hopes the preserve will help inspire in people “an increased resolve to help preserve our diminished and dwindling natural resources.”
NBC news correspondent Pete Williams said Rockefeller’s act of generosity was “twice blessed” because it not only fulfilled Rockefeller’s vision but also preserved an important part of Grand Teton’s ecosystem.
Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott said the gift is a valuable one.
“This is a unique corner of Grand Teton National Park and a place to form a personal bond with nature,” she said. “It’s easy to see why it meant so much to Mr. Rockefeller. This is, in its purest form, a forever gift.”
Clayton W. Frye Jr., a friend and business associate of Rockefeller’s, said the decision to preserve the JY Ranch involved a complex interaction between his family and what he felt was his public duty. Further, Rockefeller’s “natural self” evolved based on the character of the ranch, he said.
“No place was more central to his life than the JY,” Frye said.
The JY Ranch began in 1906 when Lewis Joy established one of the first dude ranches in Jackson Hole. In 1932, John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased the ranch.
Laurance Rockefeller inherited the ranch from his father, and in the 1990s donated roughly 2,000 of the ranch’s 3,000 acres to the Park Service. In May 2001, Rockefeller announced he would donate the remaining 1,106 acres.
The land and the center represent one of the largest gifts ever given to the National Park System, National Park Service intermountain regional director Mike Snyder said.
“The value of the gift is priceless,” he said. “The National Park Service will honor Mr. Rockefeller’s vision of this place.”
John Turner, former assistant secretary of state and owner of the Triangle X Ranch, recalled the early, contentious days of the Rockefeller family’s Grand Teton efforts. He called national parks a “truly American invention” and said Rockefeller’s donation helps continue that legacy.
The visitor center is the only Platinum Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design-certified building in the National Park Service. LEED certification is awarded to buildings that meet certain requirements for environmental sustainability.
The visitor center will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.