MOOSE, WYO. — Jenny Lake is the most popular destination in Grand Teton National Park, and in recognition of the upcoming centennial of the National Park Service in 2016, a nonprofit group is leading a campaign to improve trails and visitor amenities at the popular recreation area just a half-hour drive from Jackson, Wyo.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell joined Grand Teton Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott and Grand Teton National Park Foundation President Leslie Mattson on Thursday in announcing a $16 million public-private partnership that will bring comprehensive improvements to the most-visited spot in the park.
Mattson said the Inspiring Journeys Captial Campaign will raise money to renovate the Jenny Lake visitor complex and trail system to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, used by nearly 2 million people each year.
The goal is to help maintain “one of the most beautiful places on earth,” Mattson said, describing Jenny Lake as “an amazing, extraordinary place”
More than $5 million has already been raised toward the project, with the foundation working to raise a total of $13 million. The Park Service will contribute $3 million in annual maintenance funds and other expenditures.
Foundation funds are key to maintaining services in Grand Teton and other national parks, said Jewell, who praised the nonprofit group for covering some of the expenses involved in keeping the Jenny Lake Visitor Center open after federal budget cuts mandated under sequestration.
“We cannot step up in the way we would like to step up with the budget constraints we have today,” she said.
Groups like the foundation “should be the margin of excellence, not the margin of survival” for national park units, Jewell said.
Funds spent on national parks benefit rural communities by providing sustainable employment, she said, noting that “this community really sets a high bar” in its level of support for Grand Teton.
Jewell recalled how the Great Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps built the trail system at Jenny Lake at a time when park managers never imagined the level of intensive daily use now seen.
Recruiting a new generation of young people, veterans and others to become more involved in national parks and other federal public lands is an important goal, Jewell said during an emotional moment, wiping away a tear as she gazed back at the Tetons behind her.
Scott said the Foundation has been an important partner in a variety of projects throughout the park, ranging from helping build the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center to installing bear-proof food storage boxes throughout the area.
Mattson said the goal is to finish most of the work on the project by the August 2016 Park Service centennial, “so that everyone who comes to Jenny Lake can have an inspiring journey of her own.”
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].