GARDINER, MT—With the summer tourist season now in full gear, officials at Yellowstone National Park expressed a growing sense of concern and agitation Monday about a competing 3,500-square-mile nature reserve that recently opened directly across the street from their own park.
According to its detractors, the newly built Yello-Stone Natural Park, draped in strings of multicolored pennant flags and identified by a flashy hand-painted sign, is blatantly attempting to capitalize on the older location's long-established reputation by offering similar flora, fauna, and geothermal features at a cut-rate price.
"That place is absolutely shameless," Yellowstone superintendent Dan Wenk said. "We've been delivering breathtaking natural splendor to the public for 139 years, and all of a sudden some out-of-town businessmen slap together a few ecosystems and truck in 3,000 head of bison—are we supposed to believe that's some sort of coincidence?"
"Just look at that volcanically active caldera the size of Rhode Island they have over there," Wenk added. "They completely ripped us off."
Already reeling from budget cuts, the National Park Service acknowledged its new competitor posed a grave threat. Yello-Stone's owners have reportedly installed dozens of modern high-flow geysers, conveniently situated their most impressive ravines just 40 feet from the parking lot, and offered enticing daily promotions, such as 'Pet a Bighorn Sheep Day' and geode giveaways for children under 12.
However, Yellowstone's corps of rangers has taken aim at some of the new park's most heavily advertised features, casting doubt on its claim of possessing the World's Largest Boulder and arguing that its so-called Tomb of Lewis and Clark was "not even close" to being historically accurate.
Dismissing these slick attractions and marketing strategies as mere ploys to mask "shoddy" natural features, Yellowstone chief ranger Tim Reid said many of the rival park's waterfalls were off-kilter, its single grizzly bear appeared mangy and in ill health, and its so-called Flat Rock Plateau was actually just a vacant lot.
"The aurora borealis they have over there isn't half as majestic as ours, and the vistas from their windswept escarpments hardly induce a sense of wonderment," Reid said. "Sure, they let people Segway up the mountain passes over there, but it's all meant to distract you from the fact that they simply can't deliver the same pristine natural grandeur."
"For Christ's sake, they put in palm trees in an old-growth subalpine forest system," Reid added. "I can't even believe people are falling for that crap."
When contacted, Yello-Stone's principal owner Rick Zeller, whose park in Northern Arizona is credited with driving the Grand Canyon into bankruptcy in 2007, stated that he was simply exercising his right as an entrepreneur.
"It's a free country. You can build a park wherever you want," Zeller said. "We're just giving the people what they want—high- elevation alpine lakes, face-painting for the kids from a real Indian, a Continental Divide that'll knock your socks off—and we guarantee you'll see a bald eagle or you get a free soft drink on us. You can't beat that."
Hoping to highlight the long history of its nature reserve and minimize visitor confusion, the NPS has reportedly instructed rangers to begin using the name Original Yellowstone Park. In addition, park officials have begun updating signs, brochures, and websites to include the slogan "Since 1872." Nonetheless, recent attendance figures reveal that, whether accidentally or intentionally, an increasing number of tourists are visiting the newer park.
"I'd been looking forward to coming here for a long time, but to be honest, I found it pretty underwhelming," 38-year-old father of two Jeff Danaher said of Yello-Stone. "The girls really liked tossing pennies into the hot springs and riding the mule deer, but the lodges were kind of shabby and the rangers could only provide a history of the area back to 1992."
"At least it was great to finally see Old Reliable in person," Danaher added. "I had no idea that it spouted every hour on the hour and erupted in sync with classic rock hits each night at 7:30."