Advertisement

Yellowstone gets $40M donation so staff can actually afford to live there

yellowstone national park anonymous donation
yellowstone national park anonymous donation

A mystery benefactor is helping solve this National Park’s affordable housing crisis.

An anonymous donor has given $40 million to Yellowstone through the National Park Foundation, specifically with the intent of ensuring that park employees can actually afford to live near the 2.2-million-acre wilderness, Montana Public Radio reported this week.

The protected swath of nature — which spans portions of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho — has grown increasingly popular in recent years, with visitation rates reaching record highs and, paradoxically, making it harder and harder for staff to find housing.

“I can count at least five critical positions where we’ve tried to recruit, but we got turned down by the applicant because of a lack of housing,” Park Superintendent Cam Sholly told the outlet.

Employee housing at the park, seen here while under construction. NPS / Jacob W. Frank
Employee housing at the park, seen here while under construction. NPS / Jacob W. Frank
An aerial view of current employee housing at the park. NPS / Jacob W. Frank
An aerial view of current employee housing at the park. NPS / Jacob W. Frank

The situation is worst at the height of tourist season, when the 152-year-old park employs more than 3,000 professionals.

Thanks to the new donation, Yellowstone will be able to construct approximately 70 units of housing inside the park, and National Park Foundation CEO Will Shafroth is hopeful it will inspire further philanthropy.

“These people are public servants, and they deserve a great place to come home to and call home,” Shafroth told the outlet.

Some half of the staff at Yellowstone, the country’s first National Park, have long looked to neighboring towns to find affordable, longer-term rentals — but in recent years many of those have been converted into nightly lodgings.

A spiffy-looking kitchen inside a completed employee unit. NPS / Jacob W. Frank
A spiffy-looking kitchen inside a completed employee unit. NPS / Jacob W. Frank

And as bad as the nearby rental market is, buying a place in the area is even more unaffordable. Homes there reliably list for double the national average, a 2023 report by the park found.

It’s a problem playing out across the country, especially in areas with significant appeal as second home and vacation destinations.