CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Planning and Development at Rim Village: 1886 – present E. The Mission 66 Era: 1957-1967

Crater Lake National Park: Administrative History by Harlan D. Unrau and Stephen Mark, 1987

 CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Planning and Development at Rim Village: 1886 – present
E. The Mission 66 Era: 1957-1967

After an enthusiastic beginning under the Eisenhower Administration, the energy behind Mission 66 began to dissipate by the fall of 1960. In an attempt to keep the construction funds flowing and encourage concession development at Rim Village, the NPS instituted package master plans. Formulated in 1961, 1964, 1965, and 1967, these plans took slightly different approaches to relieving congestion at the site. The need for a visitor center was soon intertwined with concession development and a complicated attempt to move NPS headquarters out of the park.

The questionable feasibility of building an underground walkway to a winterized Sinnott Memorial prompted Merel Sager (who was now the NPS’s Chief Landscape Architect in the Washington office) to design a winter viewing platform in early 1957. He envisioned a platform on the edge of the rim, built so that it could sit on the berm. The device would utilize posts so that it would be raised and lowered depending on the snow depth.[57] At roughly the same time Sager proposed a platform for lake viewing, Cecil Doty designed a visitor center for the site of the Kiser Studio which included a winter viewing tower at its north end. [58]

Although construction of a visitor center proved elusive, some changes took place at Rim Village during the Mission 66 program. The roadway between the plaza and lodge was widened to provide more parking for day use, which had been accounting for over 80 percent of visitation since before 1950. [59] Newly designed cement picnic tables accompanied by metal fire grates were put into the realigned Rim Campground in 1958. By 1960, the new Cleetwood Cove Trail on the north side of the caldera was providing access to the lakeshore, replacing the steeper and increasingly hazardous Crater Wall Trail.

The Smiths sold their interest in the concession company to Ralph O. Peyton and James M. Griffin in 1959. Negotiations began with the new concessioners about the disposition of the lodge because their contract was due to expire at the end of 1960. The NPS wanted to buy the lodge and convert it into a visitor center and museum, and programmed $285,000 for its purchase. The new concessioners could take the proceeds from the sale and construct a motel accommodating 250 people in the new “concession area” adjacent to the cafeteria. [60] Contract negotiations stalled over the issue of the new motel’s proximity to the lake, so Peyton and Griffin were granted a five year extension under the terms of the old agreement. [61] The large number of contracted construction projects of the Mission 66 program (some of which had to be coordinated with concession development) necessitated flexibility in NPS master plans. When the agency found itself increasingly concerned about the Kennedy Administration’s willingness to back Mission 66 projects, it tried a new approach to updating and presenting park plans called package master plans. Narrative material prepared by park and regional staffs could be presented on the same size sheets as the WODC drawings for areas in a park that were considered to have common problems. A general package that encompassed the entire park was prepared in addition to however many packages that a large or small park required. Package master plans were also to be accompanied by development schedules that listed priorities and estimated costs of the proposed changes. [62]

In 1961, Crater Lake was one of the first four parks selected for this experiment in planning. A proposed visitor center was a key component of the package that included Rim Village. A new access road from the south (which followed portions of the army route as it entered Rim Village) was planned to diverge from the existing road below Rim Campground and go to the lodge. This would allow visitors to avoid the congested plaza area as they made their way to the new visitor center, housed in the adapted lodge. [63] The proposed “concession area” around the plaza, the adapted lodge, and a second access road through Rim Village continued as the main focal points when Superintendent W. Ward Yeager submitted the park development schedules for the update of the package master plan in early 1964. [64]

An administrative reorganization of the national park system into natural, historical, and recreational areas resulted in Crater Lake being classified as a natural area after 1964. This classification was interpreted by the agency to mean that the park would reflect as little evidence of human activity as possible. A package master plan was drafted in July 1965 which aimed to provide a workable traffic pattern for Rim Village. Additional parking for the proposed visitor center in the lodge was a key component, as was additional parking space to service the concession facilities. Included in the plan’s principal recommendations was a proposal for Rim Village becoming a day use area. The lodge was to be acquired by the NPS for demolition or conversion into a visitor center, and the concessioner was to develop overnight accommodations away from Rim Village. [65]

The five year extension that Peyton and Griffin had been granted expired on December 31, 1965. Although the concessioners were able to get a one year extension for the 1966 season, Superintendent J. Leonard Volz made the installation of an automatic sprinkler system in the lodge a condition for granting a new contract. [66] Volz also raised questions about the future of the lodge in a memorandum to Regional Director Edward Hummel. Focusing on fire safety and the lodge’s proximity to the caldera, Volz tied NPS ownership of the lodge to moving park headquarters out of Munson Valley.[67]

One of the reasons that the proposed headquarters move was generating more enthusiasm than it had in the past was that Volz was the first superintendent of the park to live in Munson Valley year-round. The first drawings of a new headquarters located at the park’s south entrance had been done by Lange and Davidson in 1942, but cost studies in 1948, 1955, and 1961 resulted in rejection of the idea, [68] Volz pursued the plan because the Medford winter headquarters were disbanded in 1965 and there was now the possibility of getting overnight accommodations out of Rim Village. Some of the buildings in Steel Circle were to be exchanged for the concession’s interest in the lodge, provided that the Steel Circle buildings were remodeled as motel accommodations. [69]

Director George Hartzog’s visit to the park in August 1966 led to the concession appraising the NPS buildings in Munson Valley so that an anticipated exchange for their property at Rim Village could take place. [70] Hartzog wanted to convert Rim Village to a primarily day-use area by consolidating the functions of key structures and razing others. He favored reconstruction of the lodge into a low-profile structure that would utilize the existing stone masonry and provide about 50 high-quality rooms. Volz later reported to Regional Director John Rutter that it would take two seasons to convert the lodge, but that overnight accommodations must first be provided elsewhere before the lodge conversion could begin. To Volz, this also meant that park headquarters had to be moved to a new site before work could start on converting the Steel Circle apartments to motel units. [71]

The 1965 draft master plan had to be finalized during 1967 because no construction could begin without an approved master plan. The master plan included proposals to: 1) expand the Mazama Campground for a trailer village and camper supply complex (to include showers, laundry, store, and service station), so that the Rim Campground could be closed; 2) construct a concessioner’s employee dormitory at Rim Village; 3) phase out the cold water and Ponderosa cabins; 4) construct a multi-purpose building on the site of the Kiser Studio that would incorporate an amphitheater, offices, exhibit space, and the services of the existing cafeteria. [72]

In the 1967 interpretive prospectus, Chief Park Naturalist R.G. Bruce discussed the proposal for a multi-purpose building, while noting that the lodge and cafeteria would probably remain at Rim Village. He proposed a low profile Lake View building that would remove the need for all of the existing NPS structures, including the Sinnott Memorial. Bruce attached Doty’s 1943 drawing to show a feasible design and concluded that the promenade and its retaining walls should be completely reworked. [73]

By the end of 1967, funds for a new visitor center still were not programmed. Reconstruction on the lodge was put off until 1974 largely because new acquisitions to the National Park System were consuming most of the agency’s construction budget.[74 ] Earlier that year, Volz and the concessioners resigned themselves to the probability that the proposed headquarters move would take up to ten yearn. Peyton and Griffin wrote Hartzog and asked that a contract be negotiated before the end of 1967, and said that acquisition of the Steel Circle facilities could wait until the headquarters situation was clarified. [75] This meant that the lodge would provide accommodation for at least another five years.

After Donald Spalding took over as superintendent in April 1967, the concessioners began installing an automatic sprinkler system to protect the lobby area of the lodge. NPS officials insisted fire and life safety improvements should extend throughout the lodge as long as it served as public accommodations. These improvements were to be part of the new contract with the concessioner. [76]


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