Could Island Park be destined to become a tourist resort?
A Wyoming developer wants to create a tourist gateway to Yellowstone National Park in the rural community.
Developer Jerry Greenfield presented his idea for a large-scale condominium resort with movie theaters and restaurants at a public meeting in Island Park on Wednesday night.
He compared his plans to resorts like Branson, Missouri.
The local community seemed to have other ideas.
“What we need is managed tourism inside and outside the park boundaries,” said Greenfield. “When those tourists stop, they spend time and they spend money.”
Greenfield stood before 150 Island Parkers — well over half the community’s entire population of 289.
He presented his idea for a large scale resort to house tourists on their way to Yellowstone.
He said the complex would be self contained, gated to keep wildlife away from swimming pools, movie theaters and restaurants, and hundreds of condos.
“There was a firm out of Branson, Missouri called Conceptual Marketing that did a lot of work for us,” said Greenfield.
He drew several comparisons between Branson — a large tourism conglomeration — and the vision he has for Island Park.
The idea, said Greenfield, is just an idea.
But ideas can inspire powerful feelings.
“I don’t see how that is going to help any of the community,” said one community member.
“Bringing that sort of place to our community, I don’t see any benefit to our businesses,” said another.
Neighbor after neighbor spoke out against the development at the meeting.
Monica Weir was one of them.
“I see a problem with it not benefitting our businesses in town, but bringing more traffic and problems to the area,” said Weir.
Island Park Chamber of Commerce president Jackie Jensen said the opposition didn’t come as much of a surprise to members of the chamber, who organized the meeting when Greenfield approached them for support.
“So many people are here in Island Park because they love the serenity,” said Jensen. “I think that is where the opposition is coming from.”
Island Park business owner Connie Funkhouser stood out from the crowd on Wednesday. She said she’s incredibly skeptical, but will keep an open mind.
“We need to support business, we need to encourage people in their various businesses whether we like it or not,” said Funkhouser.
Greenfield said a big resort would infuse Island Park with tourists, and a rising tide, he said, would raise all ships.
Even local businesses would flourish, he said.
“Whether or not these other businesses succeed or fail, it’s kind of up to their own attitudes,” said Greenfield.
The project will depend on the success of a Forest Service land swap.
Greenfield’s partner — Jerry Harmon — is trying to negotiate a trade of a parcel of land in Bonneville County near Palisades Reservoir for the land in Island Park.
Greenfield said if things move forward it would likely be another decade before the resort would be operable.