65 G. False Starts and Potential Resolution: 1978-1988

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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G. False Starts and Potential Resolution: 1978-1988

At Rim Village, the GMP may have created more problems than it solved. Its cursory treatment of the Crater Lake Lodge was one reason why the NPS eventually found itself entangled with provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act. The agency’s proposed resolution of the redevelopment problem was politically expedient and was aimed at using the support for a rehabilitated lodge to construct a visitor center within a new hotel. In doing this, however, the NPS committed itself to a multi-million dollar effort that was dependent upon at least ten years of discretionary Congressional funding for special construction projects.

Not long after the GMP was completed, the question of whether the lodge could be maintained as first class public accommodations (as specified in the GMP) was laid open to scrutiny. In March 1978, Superintendent Frank Betts requested that a structural engineer make an inspection of the lodge. [94] No immediate action was taken, but an electrical inspection of the lodge was made in May 1979 by personnel from the Denver Service Center (an entity which arose from the eastern and western offices of design and construction being consolidated in 1971). The inspection was followed by a preliminary report on fire safety and structural stability of the building in October 1979.[95] Another inspection in January 1980 estimated that over $2.4 million would be required to correct life safety and structural deficiencies in the lodge. This report also pointed out that the NPS still had no maintenance agreement with the concessioner concerning the building. [96]

The lack of fire safety measures in the lodge was the subject of a Government Accounting Office report released in November 1980. [97] The report stressed that extensive renovation was needed if the building were to continue as public accommodations. Since the GMP stated that the lodge could be removed at the end of its useful life, there was some question whether renovation efforts should proceed, given that overnight stays in the lodge had fallen by 33 percent from 1977 to 1979. [98]The NPS held public meetings on the fate of the lodge in Klamath Falls, Medford, and Salem, from December 9 to 11, 1980. [99] Four options with cost estimates were presented by the agency, with public sentiment generally favoring retention of the lodge.

Concurrent with the public meetings, NPS personnel in the Pacific Northwest Regional Office in Seattle revised and submitted a National Register nomination form on the lodge to the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation. The nomination was approved and forwarded to Washington, D.C. where the lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 5, 1981. [100] Placement on the National Register, the public’s desire for continued use of the lodge, and the GMP as approved, were the main factors in the move toward total rehabilitation of the building. The regional office prepared a Development/Study Package Proposal in the spring of 1981, so that a task directive for Denver Service Center work could be approved. [101]Operating under Package 220, the NPS financed interim improvements to the lodge and initiated a historic structure report to guide the rehabilitation efforts. [102]

The rehabilitation work was scheduled to begin at the close of the 1982 operating season. The Historic Structure Report, however, found that the construction cost for stabilization and rehabilitation of the lodge would exceed $6 million. Besides the cost of the work, concern about slope deterioration undermining the foundation of the lodge was a factor in the Denver Service Center’s recommendation of a “no go” decision on the project as requested in the 1982 construction budget. [103] The rehabilitation project was tabled and an amendment to the GMP was pursued. In the interim, fire and life safety work continued so that the lodge could remain in operation on a year-to-year basis. [104]

The feasibility of providing winter lodging in the park had been indicated by studies made in 1980 and 1983, though no major shift in the seasonality of visitation or average length of stay in the park was anticipated. [105] An amendment to the GMP was to resolve the lodging issue in the form of an action plan. As outlined in the Planning Process Guideline (often referred to as NPS-2) action plans were to be prepared as sequels to the approved GMP for large parks where the level of detail in the GMP is inadequate to allow execution of particular programs. [106] When detailed guidance for anticipated park development is needed, an action plan is prepared and is called a development concept plan (DCP).

A draft DCP was issued for public comment in February 1984. The preferred alternative called for expansion of the cafeteria building that would house approximately 58 lodge rooms, dining facilities, and an interpretive center. This lodge/cafeteria complex would be connected to the Munson Valley waste water treatment system. Adaptive use for an artist-in-residence program was discussed for the Kiser Studio, while the rental cabins and Community House were slated for removal. Commercial development in Munson Valley was to be limited to the eventual replacement of the concessioner’s employee dormitory at Rim Village. [107]

Public meetings were held to review the DCP alternatives in Klamath Falls, Medford, Roseburg, and Salem during March 1984. Although the scope of the DCP was the entire park, the disposition of the Crater Lake Lodge elicited the most comment. Possible adaptive uses for the lodge were given in the document’s appendix. These possibilities were explored as separate, but parallel issues to the environmental consequences of providing lodging in the park. Public sentiment was generally supportive of the preferred alternative and there was acceptance of the basic assumption shared by all alternatives that future lodging would not be provided in the Crater Lake Lodge. The public expressed a desire, however, that some use be found for the building. [108]

A final decision on the DCP was promised for June, but problems with the document began to surface in the public comment period. Not only did critics want a thorough analysis of alternatives to demolishing the building, but they were upset over theHistoric Structure Report being based on what it would cost to make the lodge “first class” accommodations. [109]

In concluding the section on adaptive use of the lodge, the draft DCP stated:

The high cost to renovate the lodge for limited use, the uncertainties over the long-term stability of the site, and management objectives to reduce development on the rim indicate that ultimately the lodge should be removed. Before any decision is made, alternatives for financing renovation and continued use will be further explored, public comments will be given full consideration, and formal consultation procedures with the state historic preservation officer and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will be conducted. [110]

When the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) was consulted, it recommended that it would be unwise to predicate a decision to demolish the lodge on a management policy which calls for the removal of development from the vicinity of primary park resources. The ACHP also cited the need for a Preliminary Case Report (PCR) on the lodge in order to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The PCR was to provide a detailed account of replacement and retention costs for the lodge, and to organize these costs into options that were to include a relatively modest “rustic” standard of accommodations.

Nevertheless, on June 26 NPS Director Russell Dickenson reversed his previous endorsement of the preferred alternative in the draft DCP. He said that all development should be removed from Rim Village except for an interpretive center in the cafeteria building and further stated that continued use of the Crater Lake Lodge contradicted current NPS policy to remove nonresource-related facilities from prime resource areas.[111]

When the decision was announced by Regional Director Daniel J. Tobin, Jr., in late July, a wave of protest erupted in Oregon’s newspapers. The Historic Preservation League of Oregon was especially vocal in finding fault with the analysis of rehabilitation costs for the lodge. [112] The outcry prompted a request by Oregon Congressman James Weaver to include the lodge question on the agenda of a House Interior Subcommittee on Public Lands and National Parks, for a hearing on September 11, 1984.

Director Dickenson answered Weaver’s questions at the hearing and agreed to get a second cost estimate for rehabilitating the lodge, this time from architects and engineers not in federal service. Weaver also urged Dickenson to seek extensive public comment and the advice of historic preservation groups before any decision is made to demolish the lodge. [113] During the period between the hearing and the initiation of the second cost estimate, the Portland architectural firm Fletcher, Finch, Farr, and Ayotte was chosen to do a study of alternative sites for a new lodge. [114]

The uncertainty over the old lodge left the actions common to all alternatives in the draft DCP suspended. In Rim Village, this meant that the removal of the rental cabins and the connection of all facilities to the Munson Valley waste water treatment system could not go ahead. To rectify the situation, an interim DCP was prepared and approved in May 1985 so that work on noncontroversial projects could proceed. [115]

The interim DCP also made mention of the second cost study for the lodge, which would require from six to nine months to complete. A contract for $144,000 was awarded to the Portland-based firm of Broome, Oringdulph, O’Toole, Rudolf and Associates (BOOR/A) on June 25, 1985. [116] The BOOR/A study was to provide information on the feasibility of rehabilitating the lodge for “rustic” accommodations. This was defined as “the economical repair and/or replacement of defective building elements to meet code and operational requirements for use of the facility in its current configuration.” The study was to contain costs for both a 20 and 40 year life cycle. Completed in March 1986, it included a landscape inspection report, snow load study, food service equipment report, a study of vegetation changes affecting the lodge, and a wind tunnel test report.

The study of vegetation change was authored by architect Alfred Staehli, a historic architect who had done previous consulting work in other national park areas. [117]Staehli mapped the historic pattern of vegetation to show that the addition of the building’s annexes in 1923 changed the snow drifting pattern. Staehli showed that this change, not slope failure, eventually caused the terrace on the lodge’s north side to slump off. [118]

The findings of the BOOR/A study confirmed earlier Denver Service Center findings that the lodge had a poor initial structural design, had always provided meager accommodations, and would require major rehabilitation. Rehabilitation even to “rustic” standards would require complete replacement of the electrical system, most of the mechanical system, and major structural renovation. The costs associated with either the “first class” or “rustic” standard of accommodation differed mainly in their treatment of the Great Hall section of the lodge. Also discussed was the option of removing the annexes and keeping the original part of the building as a summer restaurant and interpretive display area. It was estimated that rehabilitation costs for this option would be about half of what full rehabilitation would cost. [119]

In March 1986, Oregon Congressman Bob Smith announced that NPS Director William Penn Mott was considering a proposal to remove the annexes. Smith said that Mott wanted to get a reaction from various groups about the idea in order to work out a compromise. [120] In July 1986, Mott made an unannounced visit to the lodge which led to the preparation of a third cost estimate by the Denver Service Center. Using the BOOR/A “rustic” approach and the NPS “first class” estimate, a “combined option” scenario was generated for a rehabilitated lodge with annexes. Issued as a working draft in October, this estimate was about midway between the two prior cost studies. It assumed a post-rehabilitation total of 82 guest rooms, whereas the “rustic” standard planned 108 and the “first class” standard had 56 rooms. [121]

In March 1987, Denver Service Center historical architects Craig Kenkel and Craig Frazier examined cost data from the BOOR/A study and the “combined option” to obtain figures for two scenarios involving the lodge without annexes. The first, an interpretive display with dining facility, was estimated to cost between $3.3 and $3.7 million in Fiscal Year 1991 net construction costs. The second scenario, rustic lodging with dining, would run between $4.5 and $5 million. [122]

The Kenkel and Frazier schematic study allowed work to begin on constructing alternatives for a supplement to the suspended 1984 DCP. A draft document was cleared for printing in July 1987. Its focus was various combinations of lodging in the park and contained four alternatives. In all of the alternatives, lodging was to be limited to a maximum of 160 units in the park total with a maximum of 90 units at Rim Village. Costs of the alternatives were higher than previous estimates. This was because they were based on replacement of the cafeteria with new lodge facilities. The Denver Service Center specialists were convinced that a remodeled cafeteria would not function well and cited wind tunnel tests as evidence that the building would complicate the design for winter use of Rim Village. [123]

The location of the septic leachfield serving the cafeteria figured prominently in an investigation of six caldera springs during the summer of 1987. The ensuing report connected high nitrate concentrations found in one of the springs to the leachfield and strongly suggested that the NPS consider alternative approaches for treating human waste on the rim. [124] The report also justified the phasing of planned construction in the supplement to the DCP. The connection of new and existing facilities to the Munson Valley waste water treatment plant was given top priority in the anticipated funding for a Rim Village redevelopment package. [125]

The draft supplement to the DCP was issued for public comment in October 1987. It listed four alternatives for redeveloping Rim Village. Common to all of the alternatives was removal of four comfort stations and the Community House, while the Kiser Studio and Sinnott Memorial were to be retained. The disposition of the lodge was the key to all of the alternatives; this ranged from complete rehabilitation in the first alternative to demolition in the fourth alternative.

Alternative I would provide for an 80 room Crater Lake Lodge to be open only in the summer, and would be included in a total Rim Village redevelopment package estimated at $25.5 million. Alternative II drew from the Kenkel and Frazier schematic study including a rehabilitated original lodge with restaurant and exhibit space, open only in summer. A new all year lodge with 90 rooms would occupy a site near the cafeteria. This lodge would be three stories with a winter viewing area. The site was chosen in the 1984 Fletcher, Finch, Farr, and Ayotte study. This package was estimated to cost $33.5 million. Alternative Ill was similar to Alternative II, but differed in that rustic lodging and dining would be provided in the Crater Lake Lodge in the summer while a new lodge would have 60 rooms. This package was estimated to cost $33.3 million. Alternative IV called for a new all- year lodge with 90 rooms in an estimated package to cost about $28 million. All four alternatives showed a separate interpretive center to be constructed near the site of what had been the cafeteria and in proximity to the new lodge. Several newspapers called for a fifth alternative that would have the old lodge rehabilitated for year-round accommodations. [126]

Public hearings were held on the supplement to the DCP in Klamath Falls, Medford, Roseburg, and Portland from January 25 to 28, 1988. The historic preservation community strongly favored Alternative I, while the NPS chose not to select a preferred alternative. During the hearings the NPS stressed that a final decision was not limited to the four alternatives. [127] This would allow Regional Director Charles Odegaard the latitude to combine elements from several alternatives for a final decision on the DCP once the public comment period closed February 5,1988.

Odegaard announced his decision on February 25. He agreed to a $35 million effort to fully renovate the Crater Lake Lodge to provide about 80 guest rooms in the summer, while a new 60 room lodge near the site of the cafeteria would provide year-round accommodations. [128] Odegaard used what was essentially the “combined option” of October 1986 regarding the old lodge and endorsed the idea of a new “multi-purpose” building that would combine the functions of the proposed interpretive center and a new lodge. The decision met an overwhelmingly favorable reaction in Oregon’s newspapers, largely because the decision had finally been made to retain the Crater Lake Lodge.[129]

The final supplement to the DCP appeared in May 1988. It provided for 140 lodging units at Rim Village and a total of 220 in the park, representing an increase over what was contained in the draft supplement. The NPS justified the increase by stating that proposed work at Rim Village would reduce the area affected by development from 32 acres to 12 acres. This was to be accomplished largely by combining the functions of the buildings scheduled for removal (the cafeteria and the Community House) into a new lodge. The concessioner’s employee dormitory was to remain at Rim Village for the remainder of its useful life, but alignments for roads and parking had yet to be determined. [130]