PORT ANGELES — Sen. Patty Murray’s visit to the North Olympic Peninsula took her from sea level to 5,000 feet and back again on a 10-hour, 200-mile trip to get a first-hand look at the remains of the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge, survey coastal erosion at Kalaloch Beach and celebrate with Port Angeles officials and trail advocates a $16 million federal grant to complete the Olympic Discovery and Sound to Olympics trails.
Murray, D-Seattle, who is president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate and chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, visited the area Monday and Tuesday.
The six-term Democrat U.S. senator from Washington state said Monday she had been devastated when she learned about the May 7 fire that destroyed the day lodge in Olympic National Park.
“As somebody who’s brought my family here, gone hiking from here, it’s where we bring visitors,” Murray said. “I want it to be back to where it was where people can use it again like they always have for decades.”
Park Superintendent Sula Jacobs, Acting Facility Manager Jeff Doryland, Acting Deputy Facility Manager Zach Gray and Project Manager Cody Manzer discussed with Murray short- and long-term strategies for replacing the lodge and maintaining visitor access to one of the park’s most popular destinations.
The investigation into the cause of the fire conducted by “a group of external parties” is continuing, Jacobs told Murray, but it hadn’t stopped the park from moving ahead with medium- and long-term planning.
Among the solutions it is working on, Jacobs told Murray, was how to keep Hurricane Ridge open this winter. The skiers, snowshoers and sledders who visited were passionate about maintaining access, she said.
“We are tremendously cognizant of that, which is why I pushed the team and they have kind of been jumping up and down to figure out everything, and there has been every kind of roadblock that you can conceive of,” she said.
Doryland explained to Murray the park was looking at a “bare bones” solution to providing toilets at Hurricane Ridge this winter as well as designing an interim solution for restrooms until a new lodge can be built.
“We need something that’s a little hardier than just a couple of trailers, so we’re looking at possibly some sort of modular buildings. Even if it’s trailers, they would have to be winterized and a lot more secure,” Doryland said. “We’d be looking at having sufficient toilets as well as storage for all the supplies.”
Gray said the park had started working on a concept design for a new lodge that would use the same footprint as the old one, possibly incorporate passive solar or other green technologies and balance the needs of both visitors and operations.
Between the design process and construction, park staff told Murray it could take five to seven years — a conservative estimate — until a new lodge could be opened.
Jacobs said the park had funds for design work, for basic demolition of the old lodge and to provide portable toilets, but not for constructing an entirely new building.
“We’re talking about clearly north of $50 million for this kind of size of structure, so this is clearly not insignificant,” Jacobs said.
“It doesn’t fall neatly into any one funding bucket, so we are just going ahead as a park and just preparing for everything all at once,” she continued. “It is really unusual to be working on five or six different alternatives simultaneously. But that’s what we’re doing because we recognize how important it is to rebuild this.”
Murray vowed to “do everything I can in my capacity as chairman of Appropriations working with the Park Service and what other partners come into this to get the funding. But obviously, we’re ways from knowing what that number is.”
Hurricane Ridge will remain closed to the public, including bicyclists, through Thursday for debris removal from the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge burn site. The debris removal is to allow for the investigation into the fire to continue.
Before her trip to Hurricane Ridge, Murray met with local officials and trail advocates at the 9/11 Memorial Waterfront Park to celebrate a $16 million federal grant for a multi-use trail that will eventually join the Olympic Discovery and the Sound to Olympics trails to connect La Push to the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal.
Murray secured the funding through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program.
The grant will fund the planning and design of 34 multi-use trail segments across both the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas as part of the Puget Sound to Pacific Initiative. The City of Port Angeles acted as the lead agency for the grant.