The head of national parks visits Grand Teton to promote trail improvements

But director Chuck Sams said more needs to be done to support park employees.
National Parks Director Chuck Sams fields questions from reporters at the Granite Canyon Trailhead in Grand Teton National Park. (Tyler Pratt/KHOL)

by | Aug 2, 2023 | Environment, Housing, Recreation

The head of the National Park Service was in Teton County Tuesday to tout Great American Outdoors Act funding in the region. 

“Grand Teton National Park holds a very special place in my heart,” Director Charles “Chuck” Sams said, standing next to freshly poured asphalt and a new set of restrooms at the Granite Canyon Trailhead.

The federal government made billions available in 2021 to tackle a parks backlog across the system. Sams was in the region to showcase improvements at the Granite Canyon Trailhead, which has been under construction. 

“We’re going to have a real trailhead at Granite Canyon,” Sams said. “We’re going to have a place where it’s clear for people to be able to park year round.” 

But the new maintenance projects across the parks system to bolster visitor experiences come as employee morale has tanked. 

Sams acknowledged that national surveys show employee satisfaction in the parks service is among the lowest of government agencies. Yellowstone workers recently organized a union, citing low pay, high rent and an unmanageable workload. 

Sams says he is trying to tackle housing, and more may be coming soon.

“We have a housing crisis across the National Parks Service, ” Sam said. “We also need to look at the pay structure.” 

Sams said some of the funding from the money from the Great American Outdoors Act will go towards helping house workers. He added that he’s hoping to convince Congress to increase the worker pay structure. 

But with a deeply divided Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate still not in agreement on new government spending, a wage hike for parks employees may not happen anytime soon. 

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About Tyler Pratt

Tyler has over a decade of experience as a jack-of-all-trades at public radio newsrooms across the U.S. He's a Columbia Journalism School alum with a passion for reporting on criminal justice, social justice, and LGBTQ+ issues. He loves New Orleans Saints football, dance floors, tasting new wines and trying out taco spots. Follow Tyler on Twitter @prattattak

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