Four concepts released to the public Wednesday for restoring Glacier National Park’s famed Sperry Chalet dormitory range from stabilizing the walls but not rebuilding the structure — instead, setting up temporary yurts or wall tents for visitors — to reconstructing the dorm to as “close to as it was” with some critical building code updates.
Other options under consideration are to restore the dormitory “in place, but modernized,” or moving the building’s location so it’s beyond recent avalanche activity. The latter option would involve stabilizing the remaining walls and providing visitor interpretation of the original structure.
Lauren Alley, a spokesperson for the national park, said the options are consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the federal agency to assess a variety of effects for proposed actions before making decisions.
“We’re looking at very minimal actions up to some very substantial work,” Alley said. “Any of the concepts would be evaluated across a host of different considerations.”
The options can be viewed online at parkplanning.nps.gov. The comment period for the project closes Monday, April 2.
The focus of the effort is to plan for the next 100 years of visitors’ experience at the remote backcountry chalet. The dormitory is part of the Sperry Chalet complex, which also includes a historic dining hall, and non-historic employee quarters, a trails cabin and toilet facility. The dormitory burned during an “ember storm” from the Sprague fire on Aug. 31, 2017.
The complex is 6 miles from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and combined, the buildings are the largest collection of Swiss Chalet-style buildings in the United States, according to the National Park Service. They’ve served hikers since 1914, with the Sperry Chalet able to provide overnight stays for up to 50 people.
The NPS noted a few concerns for the restoration, including the sustainability of the water system. For two of the four past years, operations at the chalet were modified due to the low availability of water. Since the site is remote, Alley said materials will have to be flown in by helicopter, and work will be constrained by the short construction season.
The NPS also is taking into consideration impacts to grizzly bears and Canada lynx, as well as impacts to the wilderness experience for people during restoration.
The National Park Service scheduled the first public hearing on the proposal in Kalispell from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, at the Flathead Valley Community College Arts and Technology Building in Room 139.
“We want to hear from people about what their Sperry experience means to them — what they really enjoyed from their stay and what they think visitors will want to experience,” Alley said.
Doug Mitchell, executive director of The Glacier National Park Conservancy, said that group got its first look at the options Wednesday, and didn't have an opinion on what's been put out to the public. The group has raised about $200,000 in donations from more than 1,000 people to fund the restoration effort. About $120,000 of that was used to stabilize the heavy stone walls for the winter.
"Our role isn't an advisory position; it's making sure everyone who has been so generous with their support, and the park in general, can interact with the process," Mitchell said. "The park will make a decision on what path to go down, and that's where we come in to help implement that path. We will launch another set of fundraising when we know what we are fundraising for."
Alley said the Park Service didn't have estimates at this point for any of the options. Instead, that will be part of the conceptual design process. The Denver-based firm Anderson Hallas Architects is leading that work.