PORT ANGELES — Olympic National Park has plans to install temporary buildings for bathrooms that could enable a winter sports season at Hurricane Ridge.
Park Superintendent Sula Jacobs told the three Clallam County commissioners on Monday that a three-week utility trenching project will restore water, wastewater and electricity services at the Ridge, and there’s a plan to remove the portable restrooms in mid-October.
Once those utilities are installed, the temporary bathrooms could go up, possibly as early as mid-November.
However, the work will require short-term closures of the road to the Hurricane Hill trailhead and will cause a temporary reduction in parking spaces in the Hurricane Ridge parking lot. Visitors should expect additional delays in accessing the Ridge during the construction.
“We are excited to be taking this next step towards restoring winter access to Hurricane Ridge,” said Zach Gray, acting deputy facility manager, in a press release. “This important work will include cutting and removing asphalt, excavating and digging trenches as well as laying equipment, and paving and patching the site.”
The Hurricane Hill Road, a 1.5-mile road beyond the main Hurricane Ridge parking area, provides access to two picnic areas, the Wolf Creek Trail and the Hurricane Hill Trail. That road will be closed on weekdays during construction; vehicle access will be restored on Saturdays and Sundays.
Visitors who want to hike the Hurricane Hill Trail on weekdays should be prepared for twice the hike length — 6 miles instead of 3 miles — and an additional 380 feet of elevation gain, according to a park press release. Visitors will still be able to access those locations during the closures, but only by foot.
Winter access to the Ridge has been uncertain since the May 7 fire that destroyed the 71-year-old, 12,201-square-foot day lodge. Park officials reopened the site in late June to summer visitors, but the availability of sanitation and electricity will determine if winter sports can be offered.
Debris was removed from the site in mid-August and staff members tested a transformer and found it to be functional.
That means water can be pumped, allowing sanitation facilities to be moved. Water at the picnic areas will remain non-potable. Visitors are cautioned against drinking water in the picnic area restrooms.
A key piece of the trenching project will be to restore the Hurricane Ridge weather station and other essential park infrastructure.
“If we can’t have radio communications this winter, then nothing else can happen” in the remote park, Amos Almy, park spokesperson, said in an August interview.
“We rely greatly on radio,” he said. “Right now, it’s being run on solar and propane backup generators, which wouldn’t be feasible in the winter.”
The investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing; the cause of the blaze remains unknown, Almy said.