Teton pathway to open
By Angus M. Thuermer Jr., Jackson Hole, Wyoming
May 22, 2012
After years of study, debate and construction, cyclists Wednesday will be able to ride from Jackson to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park on a 20-mile, auto-free path.
Grand Teton National Park will open its portion of the path between the Gros Ventre River and Moose on Wednesday, completing the 20.5-mile route, park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said. The construction contractor had crews working during the weekend to complete the job.
The latest 6 and a half miles of construction links about six miles of path from Jackson to the river with another eight miles between Moose and Jenny Lake. Jackson Community Pathways built the segment just north of town on National Elk Refuge land.
“It is exciting news for a lot of audiences,” Skaggs said. While the park has numerous hiking trails, the path will add another dimension to recreation in the park, she said.
The League of American Bicyclists recognized the valley’s path network and recently named Jackson Hole one of 16 bicycle-friendly communities in the country, drawing attention to Grand Teton.
“That’s putting us ahead of some other national parks,” Skaggs said.
Cyclist Keith Benefiel hailed the path’s completion.
“I doubt if you could find a pathway in the world that has the views from Jackson to Jenny Lake,” he said.
Benefiel gave credit to advocate Tim Young, a founder of Friends of Pathways who held leadership posts with that group, with the National Parks Conservation Association and Jackson Community Pathways. Among other things, Young and associates secured key federal funding through the late U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas.
“Without Tim Young, it would not have happened,” Benefiel said.
The path will allow riders to travel safely past two places where cyclists have been killed in collisions with motor vehicles. One died on Highway 191 near Jackson Hole Airport, the other on Teton Park Road near Jenny Lake.
While Benefiel heralded completion of construction, he added, “Nobody can tell me this was done ahead of schedule.
“In 1973 county commissioners Bill Ashley, Art Brown and Ralph Gill sent a unanimous letter to the Park Service and Interior Department virtually demanding a path,” he said. “I was 23 when they did that. I’m 62 now.”
The route includes an underpass to the National Museum of Wildlife Art, two new bridges over the Gros Ventre River, an underpass at Moose and a new bridge over Cottonwood Creek.
Located in a national park, the path comes with rules. Pets are not permitted and the path in Grand Teton is open only from dawn to dusk; nighttime use is not permitted.
Park officials said users should follow common sense and basic rules of courtesy and safety.
Users should also be alert for bears and respect wildlife, they said.
Benefiel cautioned riders to remember the prevailing southwest winds that can result in a significant headwind on return trips to Jackson.