Gov: ‘Jackson Hole open for business’, overblown headlines may impede summer tourism.

By on April 28, 2014
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead tours the landslide on East Gros Ventre Butte. PHOTO: BRADLY J. BONER / JACKSON HOLE NEWS&GUIDE

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead tours the landslide on East Gros Ventre Butte. PHOTO: BRADLY J. BONER / JACKSON HOLE NEWS&GUIDE

JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING – After touring the Budge Drive landslide on Monday, Governor Matt Mead said, “It was dramatic to see it in person.”

Mead also praised local officials for their diligent work and emphasized that it’s clear that Jackson is “open for business.”

The slow-moving landslide has kept 60 evacuees out of their homes for more than two weeks, forced several businesses to temporarily close their doors and torn a house in two. Town officials have been working long hours to protect infrastructure while more information about the slide is gathered and a long-term plan is put into place.

The economic impact of stabilizing the landmass continues to grow daily. Governor Mead offered suggestions for how the state might help financially, listing at least seven state-directed funds that may be able to offer financial relief.

In addition to the direct cost of on-the-ground mitigation efforts, the slide could potentially have an indirect cost on Jackson’s tourism industry. With national headlines like “Landslide slowly devours Wyoming town” some potential visitors to the region may have second thoughts.

“We have had quite a few of our hotels tell us that some people were calling to ask if it’s safe to come,” said Jeff Golightly, Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “Because they are talking to live agents, who were able to explain the situation, we haven’t gotten any feedback that there’s been any cancellations. What we don’t know is how many people are not calling to make a reservation to begin with.”

With the region’s busiest season for tourism only a month away, the Chamber has dispersed toolkits with tips on how to alleviate fears.

“It’s so important to get the message out that contrary to headlines like ‘town’s being swallowed by landslide,’ Jackson is open for business. The landslide area is half an acre out of a 3.5-million acre playground,“ Golightly said.

Currently, the slide is moving at a rate of about a quarter inch a day, which is significantly slower than its peak movement of a few feet a day. George Machan, the chief geologist on the project, said that the slowing is, at least in part, due to buttressing at the toe of the slide.

With the landslide at a near standstill, crews can work to drill boreholes that give geologists more information about the cause of the slide, so that a long-term plan can be implemented. This investigation process could take a few months.

Meanwhile, Jackson police Lt. Cole Nethercott isaid the next priorities are to get Budge Drive residents back in their homes and to reopen the businesses in the area.

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