Report Critical of Facilities at Crater Lake – November 27, 1980

Report Critical of Facilities at Crater Lake

Klamath Falls Herald and News

Klamath Falls, Oregon
November 27, 1980
Visitor facilities at Crater Lake National Park and other national parks forests do not meet federal safety and health standards, according to a federal government report.

The General Account Office, in a report requested by Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Oregon, says some of the federal parks and forests may contain dangers to visitors and employees.

Crater Lake Lodge, the GAO report says, is a potential firetrap because of an inadequate sprinkler system and walls that are not fire resistant.

The National Park Service has scheduled public hearings next month as part of the process of deciding the future of the lodge, which was built in 1911. A hearing is scheduled in Klamath Falls on Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Klamath Credit Production Association meeting room. Other meetings are planned Dec. 10 and 11 in Medford and Salem.

Jim Rouse, Crater Lake National Park superintendent, said Wednesday he believes the report is overly critical.

“In our opinion it didn’t give us credit for things that were done,” Rouse said. “It went out of its way to paint things as bad as it could.”

Deficiencies at the Crater Lake Lodge were first reported in 1953, but, according to the GAO report, “only minor corrections have been made.”

The GAO report said NPS officials believed closure of the lodge would diminish visitor enjoyment of the park, felt uncorrected deficiencies were not serious enough to warrant the lodge’s closure and believed the closure was not politically acceptable.

A 1979 review by an NPS inspector, however, listed the wall and sprinkler problems and said, “… guests may become trapped in their rooms during a fire because the lodge does not have enough fire exists and most of the existing exits are difficult to use.”

The NPS blames some of the delays in correcting problems on ownership of the lodge by a private concessionaire until the government obtained title to the building in 1967, according to the GAO report.

The report also lists Paradise Inn at Mount Rainier National Park as a fire hazard. Mount Rainier Superintendent Bill Briggle said the report does not mention that major renovation work is under way on the lodge.

Of the 22 parks and forests studied by the GAO nationwide, only the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota was listed as having no safety or health deficiencies.

“The Park and Forest Services have not protected the health and safety of their visitors and employees,” the GAO report says in summarizing its finding. “Substandard water and sewer systems and hazardous lodges, dormitories, bridges and tunnels need to be repaired, upgraded or limited in their use.”

The agency estimated that correcting the known safety and health deficiencies in the national parks would cost about $1 billion and the Forest Service estimated its cost to meet health and safety standards at $109 million.

Among other deficiencies found in the Northwest, the GAO report lists drinking water and sewage treatment problems in the Mount Hood National Forest and fire hazards at the Stevens Pass Ski Area day lodge in Washington.

GAO said 25 or 66 drinking water systems in the Mount Hood National Forest, including those at Lost Lake Campaground and Timberline Lodge, did not meet health standards. The agency said $3.3 million would be needed to correct the water, sewage and Timberline Lodge problems at Mount Hood.