Enchanted Valley chalet, wilderness plan considered at park open house

AMANDA PARK —More than 60 people turned out Wednesday to study wilderness management options for Olympic National Park in an open house style meeting in Lake Quinault High School gymnasium.

Uppermost on many minds was the fate of the Enchanted Valley Chalet, which is imperiled by the East Fork of the Quinault River.

Also discussed were four preliminary draft alternatives and a range of six new zoning options being considered as part of the park’s first Wilderness Stewardship plan which could affect most of the park for years to come.

The Chalet

The river’s encroachment on the Enchanted Valley Chalet is a “rapidly evolving situation” and the park service is still working with state historic preservation experts to find the best solution, Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said before the meeting. The remote chalet, built in 1930, was designated historic in 2007.

She listed options currently being considered. The first: “Move the chalet back from the bank, stick by stick, brick by brick … labeling each piece and flying out the entire structure and storing it until we find a place to reconstruct it.” A helicopter and horses would be used to transport the two and a half story building and a fireplace. It may or may not be restored in the valley, most of which is a flood plain, she said. That option costs between $1.5 and 2 million, she said.

A second option would be “to buy some time and stabilize it,” moving the structure 50 to 100 feet from the river channel, at the risk it may have to be moved again in future. The rough cost estimate: $50,000 to $100,000, she said. They do not know how fragile the chalet is. The parties are working to make a decision and take action in summer “if we get lucky,” she said.

A third option is that when they do try and move it “we will find (there is) not a lot of structural integrity and then there will be a hard decision,” she said.

How to fund a possible move is also a concern. With a annual budget of $13 million, 86 percent of which goes to salaries and the rest to maintain visitor centers, toilets and “pesky trees that fall”, the park won’t have “two nickels to rub together” by the end of the fiscal year in September. She doesn’t have a preferred option for the chalet, Creachbaum said. “The whole thing is so sad it would be hard to have a preferred option.”

The choice is simple for John Olson, who was born in 1930, the year the chalet was built by his father, Ignar Olson. Move it, save it, somehow. He remembers many a joyous summer there, catching enough rainbow trout to feed a valley full of people. “We’d fry ‘em up on a big stove, in huge cast iron skillets.”

His son, Keith Olson, also wants the chalet saved. Olson is running for county commissioner as a Republican.

Jeff Monroe, of Monroe House Moving, has worked up a whole plan to move the building on slides slick with soap. He’d have supplies brought in by helicopter and horseback. He has spoken to the park personnel about the move a few times.

Monroe brought a polished display of his own with articles urging the chalet’s preservation, photos of the chalet on more solid ground in the past compared to the precarious now and his criticism that the park service sounded as though they are writing its obituary. In the center is the designation of the chalet as a 2014 Most Endangered Building by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Four Alternatives

The Wilderness Stewardship plan includes alternatives drafts of proposed changes to the areas of the park considered to be wilderness: about 95 percent of the Olympic National Park, five areas in the national forest and more than 600 islands in the national wildlife refuges. The aim is to preserve the land’s natural condition forever.

Alternative A is for the park to stay essentially as is. Alternative B and C restore areas, seem to limit development, access to camps and could reduce trails. Alternative D would offer a range of experiences, including what sounds like the most protection for maintaining historic structures. Options in each alternative can be mixed and matched. Many people present seemed to prefer A or D.

Brooke and Brian Edwards want more trails and access and to see the chalet saved. They’d like to see the park’s backlog of maintenance taken care of, though they acknowledge funds are tight.

“It’s a brainwashing thing,” a woman who wanted to be known as “Ruby of Humptulips” said. She thinks the park service has “stacked the deck” and already decided what it is going to do. She, like many of those present, is descended from pioneer families who feel displaced by the Olympic National Park.

Al Gregory, a leader in the Olympians Hiking Club, likes the idea of mixing and matching a few items into A. He, too, wants the chalet saved if possible, “I love it,” he said, noting he has a photo of himself in a rocking chair in it.

Lori Lennox and Jerry Fulbright, among other members of the Backcountry Horsemen, were concerned about possible limits some of the alternatives and new zones could have on their ability to pack in the park.

The Zones

Like city zones, the wilderness zones would designate different types of activities and access with varying degrees of impact on nature. Zones 1-3 allow more human interaction with the wild, on trails and in campsites, zones 4-6 would allow natural resources to be “minimally modified.” Keith Olson, echoing others, worried about the wording in all the zoning descriptions such as “might be restricted or limited for resource protection” or the sentence “Areas might be closed temporarily or permanently for restoration or to achieve desired resource conditions.” He thinks it would likely be closed permanently. He had highlighted boilerplate language in yellow on a draft park chart he provided to The Daily World.

Other park issues

No one wrote about the chalet, alternatives or zones on the giant notepad provided for comments. Many said they prefer to comment privately.

Three comments were posted on the pad. Two concerned property on the north shore of the lake; a third, picnic tables at July Creek. As the meeting wrapped up, Creachbaum said she heard about a lot of issues during the open house, but did not get to discuss the wilderness plan much. She noted that many people seemed to understand how difficult the situation is with the Enchanted Chalet.

The Skinny

The park crew spent the night at Lake Quinault Lodge so they can present the plan in Taholah today. More meetings about the Wilderness Stewardship Plan are set for Seattle and Shelton next week.

To review alternatives and zones in detail, and comment or suggest your own, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild. The comment period ends on May 17.

To write: Sarah Creachbaum, Superintendent, ATTN:WSP Preliminary Draft Alternatives; Olympic National Park, 600 E. Park Ave., Port Angeles, 98362.

Erin Hart, 360-537-3932, ehart@thedailyworld.com. Twitter: @DW_Erin


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