Michelin helps pave way to Yellowstone’s ‘Old Faithful’

Tyres Michelin donated to Yellowstone continue, in path form, to meet the park’s mobility requirements

Whole life fleet tyre partnerships are commonplace these days, but Michelin’s relationship with Yellowstone National Park in the USA goes one step further – with the company’s help, tyres previously supplied to Yellowstone continue to serve the park even after their working life is over.

Recycled Michelin tyres – the tyres donated to Yellowstone after Michelin became official tyre supplier to the Yellowstone Park Foundation in 2009 – form a key raw material in a new paved walkway that now surrounds Yellowstone’s most famous attraction, Old Faithful. The ‘Flexi-Pave’ path provides a durable and permeable surface and is being used to help preserve groundwater flow and better control erosion in the area. The project was completed last week and is already being traversed by visitors who come from around the globe to see the geyser.

Around 900 end-of-life Michelin tyres were used in the path’s production. They were recycled after covering an average of 100,000 miles in and around the park. While the most important benefit of this new pavement material is its porous surface, it is also heat tolerant and requires little maintenance. Importantly, the ‘repurposed’ tyre rubber and other components used in its manufacture create a stable material that does not leach oil – as asphalt can – into a sensitive area.

“The material used to create KBI’s Flexi-Pave is completely benign and therefore can be used safely with the delicate aquifers here in Yellowstone,” shared KBI founder and CEO Kevin Bagnall. “The path allows 3,000 gallons of groundwater to pass per square foot. It also is designed to diffuse the water’s force, helping prevent erosion.”

The project was made possible through a partnership between Yellowstone National Park, park concessioners, the Yellowstone Park Foundation, KBI (FlexiPave) and Michelin, which has been a Yellowstone Park Foundation corporate partner since 2008. Michelin donates about US$300,000 worth of its tyres and maintenance expertise to the Yellowstone National Park fleet every year, and the tyre maker flew in employees from across North America to help complete the path’s construction last week.

“We held a company-wide contest in which we gave our employees from the US, Canada and Mexico a chance to spend a week here at Yellowstone and work eight hours a day on this innovative new pathway,” said Leesa Owens, Michelin’s director of community relations. “More than 2,200 entered and ten were chosen from our facilities to help be a part of this important project and also experience the natural beauty of one of America’s great national treasures.”

“We take the ecological integrity of Yellowstone very seriously,” added Steve Iobst, deputy superintendent of Yellowstone. “This important project would not have happened without Michelin’s vision and the support of its employees.”

As a major corporate sponsor of the Yellowstone Park Foundation, Michelin donates and helps maintain thousands of tires to equip Yellowstone National Park’s fleet of more than 800 vehicles and equipment, which includes everything from electric carts, patrol cars and garbage trucks to giant earthmoving vehicles, rotary snow ploughs and large load-hauling tractor trailers.

“The Old Faithful Walkway Project is a great example of what a difference a company devoted to sustainability can make in the world’s first national park,” said Karen Bates Kress, president of the Yellowstone Park Foundation. “We are fortunate to have a corporate partner as farsighted, public spirited, and generous as Michelin.”

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