The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 1 - 8/31/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Fires a Boon for Some Area Businesses, Bust for Others
"We have been closed for about 10 days," said Half Moon Resort Manager Aaron Gesch last Tuesday, "and it was the busiest part of the season as far as reservations are concerned."
Many area businesses have noticed a decided bump or drop in their expected revenue for the tourist season that many feel can be directly tied to the fires raging around the west.
The Half Moon Fire forced Mr. Gesch to cancel many resort reservations, and also caused the momentum the business had established to plateau. "The hardest part has been dealing with the rumors that we have closed for the season or burned down," he adds.
Fortunately, most of Half Moon's customers who had their reservations cancelled have been very understanding and are planning to make their trip to Pinedale next year instead.
"People are wary," says Greg Ptasnik of Lakeside Lodge. "People think we are ablaze, while others have been calling for a status check. We have had a few cancellations," he adds.
O'Kelly Outfitters has had the same experience with their customers who have opted to cancel their trips into the mountains, simply due to the fire danger. Owner Kelly Pearson said a few people decided not to come due to the smoke in the air, and one family said they couldn't imagine camping without a fire. "Usually we get several calls a day, but for the past few weeks, we haven't had many calls at all," said Ms. Pearson, who feels that the nationwide publicity about the fires in the west has very possibly caused people to re think vacation plans. "We (the outfitters) are losing all the way around" because they have to buy hay, which is expensive this year, as well as do without the lost income from canceled trips.
While the outfitters have been hit hard by the fires and fire bans, other area businesses have been seeing a bit of a jump in sales, and restaurants seem to be benefiting the most.
"We have been trying to spread it around a bit," said Barb Franklin at the Forest Service in reference to the enormous amount of food needed to feed the fire fighters on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. "It is a huge amount of business," Ms. Franklin says, adding that the fire fighters are fed three meals per day, and the Forest Service has been trying to include as many restaurants as possible so everyone benefits. They are doing the same thing with local hotels where some of the out of town fire management staff stay.
Kay Buston at the Stockman's restaurant has definitely noticed a jump in sales, adding that just as the fires began a few weeks ago, all of the cars in the Elkhart park campground seemed to leave at once, and all of the campers came into town to eat. " No one was mad, but they felt bad about the fires. They were happy to have gotten out ahead of the fire," she said.
The folks at Boulder Lake Lodge were working so hard feeding the fire fighters as well as guests down there that they only had time to say that they were really, really busy when they were called to comment on the situation.
Down in Big Piney and Marbleton the effect was not nearly so pronounced as the Wyoming Range is in the Teton Ranger District and a lot of the food was supplied by companies in Jackson, Pinedale and Kemmerer. Rachelle Capell of the Forest Service in Big Piney said that a lot of food is brought to the fire fighters in large quantities from local restaurants, and groans "a five-gallon bucket of scrambled eggs is not what I want to see first thing in the morning."
Harper John Outfitters said that they really have not had many cancellations, but the threat of closing the forest for hunting season is "nerve wracking."
A representative of the Marbleton Inn said that they have seen an increase in people staying with them who were turned back when the South Entrance to Yellowstone Park was closed, but other than that, the fires have not overly impacted them.
Some retailers in Pinedale have also been pleasantly surprised by an unexpected increase in business. Although John Ross at Two Rivers Emporium reports that the water levels in the rivers are " low, really low," he has had a lot of business drop in as fishermen who had been on their way to Idaho and Montana cancelled their trips and came here instead.
Similarly, the Great Outdoor Shop has seen a slight increase in Montana/Idaho business, and they are fielding constant phone calls about the fire situation in Pinedale. No one has cancelled a llama trek yet, and they have even sold a few bathing suits to the fire fighters staying on Sandy Beach.
The fires in the Bridger-Teton National Forest have become contained enough to allow most of the fire fighters to move on to other areas where they are needed, but one local business woman marvels at the difference in the fire fighters from the prior big fire seasons until now. "Then we used to feed them biscuits and gravy and everyone was happy. Now there are always requests for vegetarian dishes. Who would ever have thought I would be sending sprouts into the mountains?"
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