Bighorn National Forest managers announced last week that the Burgess Junction Visitor Center will not open in 2013. The Visitor Center is located 60 miles east of Lovell at the junction of U.S. Highways 14 and 14A.
“Simply put, the costs to operate the visitor center are not supported by the funding sources,” said recreation program manager Dave McKee.
In years past, the visitor center was funded by a combination of Forest Service appropriated funds and a percentage of merchandise sales. Annual operating costs run about $70,000 and cover employee salaries, volunteer stipends, utilities and maintenance of the building, the parking lot and the grounds.
McKee said even though steps were taken to reduce costs, such as replacing some salaried Forest Service employees with volunteers, “costs keep rising and funding hasn’t kept pace.”
“We’re committed to providing the high-quality services that visitors expect from the Bighorn National Forest. We had to prioritize our recreation funding to continue other recreation services such as developed recreation in campgrounds and picnic sites, dispersed recreation in back country areas, special uses and managing the Cloud Peak Wilderness,” said McKee.
Services and interpretation provided at the newly-renovated Shell Falls Interpretive Site on U.S. Highway 14 in Shell Canyon and the Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark, located on U.S. Highway 14A about 35 miles east of Lovell, will be open for visitors this summer. Numerous lodges and resorts in the area also provide amenities.
The Burgess Junction Visitor Center has been open during the summer months since 1994.