HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Glacier National Park announced its east side entrances would open for winter recreation starting Thursday after the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council voted Wednesday to allow the entrances to open for the 2021 season.
The park’s five entrances on the east side of the million-acre park have been closed since last March after the Blackfeet tribe declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The park’s west-facing entrances closed briefly last year in response to the pandemic but reopened in June.
The tribal council voted unanimously to allow the east entrances to open based on the increased availability of COVID-19 testing and vaccines, according to a news release. As of Wednesday, 95% of the tribe’s eligible population had been vaccinated.
“A year ago we didn’t know where we were going to be,” the Blackfeet tribe's spokesperson James McNeely told the Missoulian. “And now, here we are, with just two active cases and nobody in the hospital. This is a plus for the Blackfeet people and everyone involved. We’re open for business.”
McNeely said mask wearing will remain a requirement on tribal land.
The park's entrances at Two Medicine, Cut Bank and St. Mary will reopen on Thursday for foot traffic, skis and snowshoes, according to a news release. Chief Mountain Road will remain closed at the park boundary until road conditions permit reopening.
The entrance at St. Mary allows vehicle traffic on Going-to-the-Sun Road for 1.5 miles until the winter gate closure at St. Mary Campground. The campground remains closed to winter camping. The roads into Cut Bank and Two Medicine remain closed to vehicle traffic for the winter.
Planned construction began on Many Glacier Road earlier this week. The road will remain closed to vehicles through May 28. Hikers and bikers can use the road on weekends.