Budget cutback hits Olympic National Park; Hurricane Ridge closed during holiday weeks
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A garland greets visitors to Lake Crescent Lodge, which will be open for Christmas and New Year’s eves and holidays for the first time in recent memory. — Photo by Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daily News

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Hurricane Ridge will not be open the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s, but the mountaintop overlook will remain open on weekends, according to park officials.

“The road typically would have been opened this weekend and then opened on Monday and Tuesday, closed for Christmas and opened Thursday,” said Barb Maynes, Olympic National Park spokeswoman.

The road will be open the Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, but will be closed during the rest of those holiday weeks, Maynes said.

The closure of the popular holiday destination is part of a host of budget-related closures at Olympic National Park this winter, including the cancellation of ranger-led snowshoe tours of Hurricane Ridge and the temporary winter closure of the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center.

“We simply don’t have the money,” Maynes said.

Said Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum: “It’s not ever a happy occurrence when we have to limit people’s ability to visit the park.”

However, Lake Crescent Lodge will be open on Christmas Day.

The 98-year-old Lake Crescent Lodge will be open through brunch Jan. 1, Maynes said.

Typically, the lodge closes in October, but it is enjoying an extended year, she said.

The lodge will offer special holiday meals for Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, she added.

Cutbacks are because of national cuts to the national park system, Creachbaum said.

“When the government shutdown ended, Congress provided funds to operate the parks through Jan. 15. Final funding for fiscal year 2014 will not be resolved before then,” Creachbaum said.

The park needs to conserve what funds it has for the busy summer season, when the park gets the bulk of its visitors, she said.

Creachbaum added that the Hurricane Ridge Ski Area also hasn’t yet opened — because of the weather, not the budget.

“The snow is not good right now,” she said.

A foot of snow was measured at Hurricane Ridge on Tuesday. That is 2 feet short of what is needed to open the rope tows.

The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, 31 miles south of Forks at the end of Upper Hoh Road, is usually open three days a week during the winter season but this year closed Dec. 2. It is scheduled to reopen in March.

Hurricane Ridge will continue to open during daylight hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, weather-dependant, Creachbaum said.

The Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends.

The road to the Ridge is often closed because of weather conditions, including ice, snow, avalanche, high winds or heavy fog.

The Olympic National Park Visitor Center — open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 3002 Mount Angeles Road — will be closed on Christmas Day.

Current weather and closure information for Hurricane Ridge and other Olympic National Park access is available at 360-565-3131.

The Hoh Rain Forest’s walking trails and campground will remain open throughout the winter and include access to running water and flush toilets.

Similarly, Quinault Graves Creek Campground, Sol Duc Campground, the Elwha Campground and Heart o’ the Hills Campground at the base of Hurricane Ridge Road also are open.

Reservations for holiday lodging at Lake Crescent Lodge can be made by phoning 866-574-2708 or visiting www.olympicnationalparks.com. Reservations for the dining room can be made at 360-928-3211.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 17. 2013 7:28PM
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