I thought I had a pretty good passive vocabulary. Then I came across the word charrette and hadn’t a clue what it meant. Out came the Merriam-Webster, but the word wasn’t there, so I tried my nine-pound Random House. Success! “A final, intensive effort to finish a project, especially an architectural design project, before a deadline.”
A five-day meeting this fall, which the organizers called a charrette, was about improving visitor experience in the Old Faithful area—before the centennial of the National Park Service in 2016. Goals included finding ways to improve vehicular and pedestrian circulation and allowing for visitors to access and learn about the geothermal features and the area’s rich history. Led by Planning and Design Chief Eleanor Williams Clark and with a final report funded by the Yellowstone Park Foundation, it came up with some interesting plans. The new visitor center, scheduled to open on August 25, 2010, is already set to present an all-new educational experience about the geothermal features. The preliminary charrette report and pictures are described in “Envisioning a More Serene Old Faithful Area.”
One of the experts at the charrette noted that, as his group was watching “a particularly long and spectacular eruption of Castle Geyser,” they realized that most of the crowd standing around Old Faithful Geyser, “probably didn’t even know it was there.” He continued, “If people were more aware of the other equally awe-inspiring features to see in the area—both natural and cultural—we would have less of a surge of pedestrian and vehicle traffic flowing away immediately after each Old Faithful eruption. Visitors would significantly improve their experience by exploring what the Upper Geyser Basin truly has to offer.”
I’m excited about the prospect of a new look for the area that I almost think of as my second home. This summer I celebrated the seventieth year since I first spent a summer at Old Faithful; my husband and I gave a small party in the Inn. I remember visiting the small ranger station and museum that was in the same spot where the huge new visitor center is now being completed. I am happy to think that many other people will be able to find and appreciate all the aspects of the Old Faithful area, and not just dash in, watch an eruption of the famous geyser, and go off somewhere else.