PORT ANGELES — Less than two months after a fire burned the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge to the ground, the gate at the entrance of Hurricane Ridge Road will swing open at 7 a.m. to allow visitors to navigate the steep and twisty 17-mile road to one of Olympic National Park’s most popular destinations.
Sula Jacobs had been park superintendent less than a year when, on May 7, she was notified the lodge was on fire.
“You’re very used to driving up and you hit that curve and you see the building,” Jacobs said. “When I hit the curve, what I saw it was still active and two chimneys and that was it. It’s really, really sad.”
That scene remains: a stark skeleton of two brick chimneys, a concrete wall and twisted metal now surrounded by two security fences.
At the time of the fire, the 12,000-square-foot lodge was undergoing a $10.8 million renovation funded by the Great American Outdoors Act and slated to be completed in May 2024. Upgrades had included improvements to the electrical and plumbing systems, as well as fire notification systems.
Now, the park will need to start design and construction from scratch, although Jacobs said it’s too soon predict what a new lodge might look or even where it might be located.
“It’s a lot of multi-step process and what we really were focusing on is how do those gates open this summer,” Jacobs said. “We do have plans in place for the future, but we don’t know the exact timing of that.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Jacobs said. She declined to name who was conducting the investigation, only that it was external to the park.
Jacobs credited the community, park staff and Clallam Transit, which increased its shuttle service to seven daily trips, with tackling the job of re-opening the park to visitors so quickly.
Jacobs said the park would try as much as possible to not allow the destruction of the lodge to alter the services it offers.
Lee Snook, chief of interpretation, education and outreach, said the park plans to continue its popular night sky program.
Hurricane Hill and the picnic are open, while the road to Obstruction Point will be closed until it is finished being regraded, which should occur shortly.
“It changes, first of all, what we would normally do and when we would be doing it, but we are looking to restore as many of those services as quickly as possible with what makes sense because we no longer have a building and we have other things that we’re logistically working with,” Jacobs said. “But I think for most visitors who come up here, they’ll largely hopefully be able to experience a slightly different but still a great experience.”
The lodge served a multitude of purposes: shelter, restroom, education, food and gift shop, and first-aid for minor injuries. However, until essential electrical, water and sewer services are restored, the park is limited in the kinds of amenities it can offer. There are about 20 portable toilets in the parking lot area at Hurricane Ridge, but no food or beverages for sale.
Jacobs said while she is still devastated by the fire, she keeps in mind that there are 900,000 acres of untouched beauty in Olympic National Park and the lodge is not the real reason people want to visit Hurricane Ridge.
“I try to remember that we are bigger than just one structure and that people can still come up here and see this amazing area,” she said.
• U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, is scheduled to visit Hurricane Ridge at 10 a.m. today.
• Due to limited parking, park staff will allow the first 175 vehicles to enter at Heart O’ the Hills Entrance Station on Hurricane Ridge Road. The next 140 vehicles will be metered at the entrance station. Due to portable toilet capacity, the road will close once 315 private vehicles have entered the park each day. Clallam Transit will operate its Hurricane Ridge shuttle and cyclists can continue to enter the park regardless of the road closing to private vehicles.
• Marc Abshire, executive director of the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, said that although they had not yet received a permit from the park, the annual Ride the Hurricane cycling event on Aug. 6 was “95 to 98 percent” sure to happen. The ride has already sold out, although there is a waiting list. For more information, go to ridethehurricane.org.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.