PORT ANGELES — Renovation of the Olympic National Park visitor center is expected to be completed in time for the summer season.
Ellen Gage, ONP historical architect and manager of the renovation project, said Thursday the center should be open by the end of May, the traditional beginning of the peak tourist season.
“The completion due date is April 30th,” she said. “Then we will need some time for prep service to move back in and to move everything out of the temporary trailers, to get I.T. (information technology) and telephones reconnected.”
“We’ll be open to the public by Memorial Day Weekend.”
The visitor center and wilderness information center at 3002 Mount Angeles Road, along with adjoining grounds and trailheads, have been closed to the public since September. Visitor services were moved to two temporary portable buildings in front of the nearby park headquarters at 600 E. Park Ave.
Improvements to the visitor center building have included upgrades to the heating and air conditioning system, improved electrical systems, refurbished floors, walls and ceilings, energy-efficient windows, seismic reinforcing, upgraded plumbing and, for the first time, a fire sprinkler system.
Probably the most obvious change is the addition of new restrooms built near the visitor center parking lot, supplementing the center’s old restrooms that were sometimes difficult to find for many people, Gage said. The new restrooms and the older ones now comply with Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards.
Included is an employee restroom separate from the public facilities, a feature requested by park staff.
In addition, the building is receiving new LED illumination, a move that is expected to save money, Gage said.
Other improvements include exterior landscaping, outdoor drinking fountains, new sidewalks and a revamped stormwater drainage system.
The center’s exhibits and furnishings will be returned to their original places before the building reopens, Gage said.
Total cost of the renovation was expected to be $3.4 million under a contract awarded to Walker River Construction of Shurz, Nev. Most of the subcontract work was being done by local and regional companies.
Gage said efforts were made to retain the building’s original character, honoring its history as the Pioneer Memorial Museum built from 1955 through 1957 by vocational carpentry classes from Roosevelt High School in Port Angeles. As many of the original finishings as possible were retained through the renovation.
“We determined that this building is eligible for the National Register (of Historic Places) as an early park service modern visitor center,” she said.
“It was in the ’50s that the park service kind of came up with this idea of visitor centers. Before that, they had what might be called museums.
“This was an early prototype.”
Keith Thorpe is photojournalist for the Peninsula Daily News. Reach him at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050 or [email protected]