64 F. Planning for a new Rim Village: 1968-1977

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


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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Planning and Development at Rim Village: 1886 – present


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F. Planning for a new Rim Village: 1968-1977

The advent of a new contract seemed to signal that park planning was headed in a coherent direction, but what few changes were made at Rim Village by the NPS resulted from the Water Crisis of 1975. Site development between 1967 and 1975 was basically left to the concessioners, a situation that brought the involvement of conservation groups in park planning for the first time. The substance of Rim Village site planning, however, changed little even though the master plan format gave way to a general management plan.

On December 20, 1967, contract no. 14-10-9-900-69 was signed by the NPS and the concessioners, The contract was to have a 30 year life and was only the fourth of such length in the history of the NPS. [77] The lodge was sold to the NPS with the concessioner now operating it on a lease. The contract stipulated that the concessioners could enlarge the cafeteria, remove the cold water and Ponderosa cabins, and build an employee dormitory.

The signing of the contract virtually coincided with official approval of a new master plan in January 1968, but revision of the plan began the following September. The revision showed an additional access road to the lodge similar to the 1961 plan. The traditional access from the plaza to the west rim drive was to be obliterated, making the proposed road the primary access to Rim Village. The new road would lead to parking for the proposed visitor center, something that was now to be constructed on the site of the Kiser Studio. There were two arterial roads that branched off from the new road so that the roadway next to the promenade could be restored to pedestrian “green space”. One arterial was to lead to a concession area that was to include an expanded cafeteria and a new concessioner’s employee dormitory, while the other was to go to parking for a rebuilt lodge. [78]

The master plan continued to tie the proposed changes at Rim Village with the headquarters move. NPS officials saw that appropriations for constructing a new headquarters away from Munson Valley were not likely in the near future, so Superintendent Spalding suggested organizing a cluster office that could manage Crater Lake and nearby parks from a headquarters in Klamath Falls. [79] In spite of warnings about the problems that had plagued administration of the park when its winter headquarters were in Medford, the Klamath Falls Cluster Office was created June 23, 1969. [80] Spalding was named general superintendent of the group that included Crater Lake and three national monuments: Oregon Caves, Lava Beds, and John Day Fossil Beds, Later that year, the group became part of the agency’s newly created Pacific Northwest Region, an entity whose headquarters were located in Seattle.

Although the NPS was able to complete the sprinkler system and some other fire safety improvements in the lodge during 1968, most construction in the wake of the new contract was financed by the concessioners, An addition to the northwest side of the cafeteria was built in 1970 to provide more space for the gift shop. In 1971, a bar and lounge were part of a new addition to the cafeteria’s northeast side while the comfort station at the rear of the building was converted into a transformer vault. [81]

More controversial was construction of the concessioner’s employee dormitory that began in August 1972. Originally planned for a site next to the cafeteria, the master plan revision of 1972 now showed it on a site south of the lodge so that it could be hooked up to the lodge’s sewer line. Passage of the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969 meant that an environmental assessment (EA) had to be written to address the impact of the building’s construction, as well as to present alternatives to constructing the dorm at Rim Village. The document stated that the building was required by the 1967 concession contract and that its purpose was to eliminate overcrowding in the lodge (employees had been housed there along with guests). It was also to provide housing for employees when the lodge was being converted to a two story structure. The EA further justified the $350,000 dormitory by stating that the building would improve the appearance of the area by allowing the lodge to be reduced to two stories.[82] When construction of the dormitory began in June 1973, seven conservation groups protested that it should have been built on Peyton’s property near the park’s south boundary. [83] The groups argued that the building’s site in Rim Village was inconsistent with the stated NPS intent to shift new development away from prime resource areas.[84] Although the dormitory was completed, further expansion of concession facilities at Rim Village was halted by order of Assistant Secretary of Interior Nathaniel Reed with the support of Oregon Senator Bob Packwood. Plans for motel units at Rim Village and Park Headquarters were dropped, with Reed directing the NPS to prepare a revised master plan that would be subject to public hearings. [85]

Crater Lake’s last master plan appeared in draft form in March 1975 and lent little credence to earlier justifications for building the employee dormitory. It noted that the lodge had been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. This meant that conversion of the building into a two story structure would now require a Historic Structure Report, as part of a feasibility study. The lodge was entitled to protection under Executive Order 11593 (Protection and Enhancement of the Cultural Environment, May 13, 1971) under which historical surveys are required on buildings nominated to the National Register prior to any construction.

A visitor center was again proposed in the master plan, this time through conversion of the cafeteria. Rerouting of the roadway to a south access for Rim Village was recommended, as was the conversion of the Rim Campground to a day use area. [86]An environmental assessment was prepared for the draft master plan in May 1975. In June, a plugged outfall line at a sewer manhole near the lodge allowed raw sewage to mix with surface runoff from snowmelt, resulting in contamination of Munson Springs. The resulting water supply problem closed the park for almost three weeks. Both the lodge and the Rim Campground remained closed after the park reopened. Emergency funds allowed for the completion of a new water line from Annie Spring in September, and Munson Springs were abandoned as a water supply.

Although the lodge had its sewage system reworked as a result of the contamination, emergency funds were not extended to cover projects in the master plan. The abandonment of the septic tank and leachfield system serving the cafeteria and cold water cabins was not accomplished. [87] The contamination had other ramifications. The Rim Campground was converted to a picnic area in the summer of 1976. In the midst of litigation arising from his role in the water contamination, Peyton sold the concession on March 1, 1976, to the Canteen Company of Oregon. Canteen was to assume the remainder of the 30 year contract. [88]

General management plans began to replace master plans in the national parks during 1977. This was in response to congressional pressure to improve administration of NPS holdings and would include public comment in park planning. The new document was done in advance of legislation mandating GMPs and consisted of a statement for management, a resource management plan, a visitor use plan, a general development plan, and subsidiary plans. [90] Accompanied by an environmental assessment, the draft GMP for Crater Lake was issued for public comment in July 1977.

Within the general development plan was a development concept for Rim Village that was very similar to what had been proposed in the 1967 master plan. The differences were that the lodge was now to be maintained as a first class accommodation, with refurnishing and maintenance to be done in a way that its historic character would be retained. The proposed visitor center was to be placed just north of the existing comfort station on the plaza. It was to be surrounded by “restored green space”, while the roadway was to be moved south to provide access to the lodge. The plan stated that the key to implementing a Rim Village plan was the removal of the rental cabins so that parking on the existing roadway and plaza could be relocated. Another major difference to the 1967 plan was that rim redevelopment was not tied to moving park headquarters to the south entrance, though the plan attempted to make a case for the move.

The development concept had a long-range goal of restoring the rim of the caldera to an interpretive zone, stating that those facilities not directly related to the viewing experience and interpretation could be removed upon the termination of their useful life. [91] No timetable was given for the proposed actions, but the development concept maintained that the replacement of lodging units with others elsewhere in the park would depend on prevailing conditions at that time and the availability of facilities within nearby communities. It did specify, however, that prior to any major actions at Rim Village, a comprehensive design would be prepared that would determine the location of the interpretive center, pedestrian areas, parking, and access roads. [92] In December 1977, the NPS issued a final GMP with an environmental assessment. The latter was the subject of some controversy in the public comment period because a conservation wanted the NPS to do an environmental impact statement. Klamath Falls Group Superintendent Ernest Borgman dismissed the idea by equating the depth and utility of an EA with an EIS while characterizing the latter as involving unnecessary delays. [93]