KULR (Cooke City)- While the Wyoming side of Yellowstone National Park is set to reopen on Monday, May 18th, Governor Bullock orders the Montana side remain closed until at least June 1st.
In the interim, Cooke City feels stranded, as nearly all of their tourism driven economy is non-existent at this time.
"There's going to be a lot of businesses that are not gonna be able to do it. If this doesn't open up soon, this town's gonna be gone," says Leo Gaertner, owner of Buns n Beds in Cooke City.
Elevation, 7651. Population, around 75 this time of year. Small communities are continuing to feel the economic impacts resulting from COVID-19.
Cooke City, the home of several small, tourism driven businesses, is in a corner that nobody wants to be in right now.
"The rest of Montana businesses have been able to slowly open to other Montana residents and that's been denied us," says Jill Warren, a Business Owner in Silver Gate.
In a release dated March 28th, the Park County Health Department requested anyone who is not a permanent resident or provider of essential services avoid all travel to the Cooke City/Silvergate area.
Fast forward to May 13th when 'Phase 1' of reopening Montana's economy is well underway, and still, Cooke City is left behind.
"In conjunction with conversations with Yellowstone National Park, the Wyoming Governor, Park and Gallatin Counties, I've determined that the entrances on the Montana side of the park will not reopen until June 1st at the earliest," says Montana Governor, Steve Bullock.
"I just don't understand how a Governor of Montana can expect a small community like this to survive a month like this. You're remote, your isolated, you're a gateway community. Nearly 100% of summer revenue... we rely on summer revenue for nearly 100% of our revenue," says Chad Meador, General Manager of Alpine Motel in Cooke City.
The Governor's reasoning?
"While our economy certainly relies upon, and we appreciate our visitors, we also want to ensure those visitors don't bring problems, meaning their infections, from their home states to our state," says Governor Bullock.
Terri Briggs, Owner of the Big Moose Resort in Cooke City, says these are the months to open, secure reservations, and get business moving within the small window they have.
"This is our time for those people who are driving through to come and stay with us. We only have a five- month period and you're taking two of those months away. That's a good 30% of our income and we cannot make it up on the back burner of this," says Briggs.
"Why cant Montanan's come through that park. There is no reason. They can travel anywhere in this whole state, but they can't come through that park," says Leo Gaertner.