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Reader Participation Day: Can We Afford to Save All Historic Lodges in National Parks?

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Should the National Park Service have embarked on a rehabilitation of the Many Glacier Hotel, one that has cost some $20 million already, or razed the lodge and started anew? Kurt Repanshek photo.

Whether you hold a sentimental tie to national park lodgings, or look at them nostalgically, can we afford to hold onto all historic lodge facilities in the National Park System?

In Glacier National Park, the National Park Service has already spent $10 million on rehabilitation work at the Many Glacier Hotel, and this fall work on another $9.5 million project will get under way in the lodge set on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake.

At Mount Rainier National Park, $22.5 million was spent on not just bringing the Paradise Inn up to code, but to place it on a sturdier, and straighter, footing in a project that shuttered the lodge for two years.

In Yellowstone National Park, while the Roughrider Cabins at Roosevelt hark back to an earlier day of national park travel, are these tiny, drafty, cob-web draped facilities still apropos for today's park visitors, or should they be replaced with sturdier, more comfortable accommodations?

There are other examples that can be cited throughout the park system, aging facilities that haven't been properly kept up and now would need tremendous infusions of money to raise them up to today's standards, both code-wise and comfort-wise.

Of course, there also are examples of where the investment in rehabilitation has been well worth it, places such as the Paradise Inn and the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park.

But sometimes it actually would be cheaper to raze a building and start anew. Recently the folks at Kings Canyon National Park determined just that when looking at the Grant Grove Restaurant.

What do you think? Should no expense be spared in rehabilitating places such as Many Glacier, or could the money be better spent on new buildings, ones that retain the character of "parkitecture" but which also offer bathrooms that aren't so tiny that you have a hard time changing your mind in them?

Comments

Gary Shive:
"Do we desecrate the memorial and the watery graves of those heroes by razing the Arizona to prevent such a disaster?" Absolutely not! Some of the best minds in America can clearly find a method for removing the oil from a mere 30ft of water, especially if they can top off an oil well at 30,000 feet. I traveled to Pearl Harbor this past December for the first time, and visited my uncle Malcolm's place of rest, the USS Arizona. His brother Gordon was far more lucky, and was blown free and clear and his body recovered following the attack. I almost wish Gordon had not been found, but was entombed for eternity with his brother aboard that ship. That ship will disintegrate, it is inevitable, but there is absolutely no need to take any action beyond oil recovery, let my uncle rest in peace. Gary Shive

With a spewing oil well, there's really no concern about preserving the well site. They're willing to drill, explode, cement over, and cap it.

I would think there probably is no practical way of doing so without disturbing the remains.


"Do we desecrate the memorial and the watery graves of those heroes by razing the Arizona to prevent such a disaster?" Absolutely not! Some of the best minds in America can clearly find a method for removing the oil from a mere 30ft of water, especially if they can top off an oil well at 30,000 feet. I traveled to Pearl Harbor this past December for the first time, and visited my uncle Malcolm's place of rest, the USS Arizona. His brother Gordon was far more lucky, and was blown free and clear and his body recovered following the attack. I almost wish Gordon had not been found, but was entombed for eternity with his brother aboard that ship. That ship will disintegrate, it is inevitable, but there is absolutely no need to take any action beyond oil recovery, let my uncle rest in peace. Gary Shive


Consider the case of Crater Lake Lodge completely rebuilt and reopened for the 1995 season. The
historic problems were not completely corrected in that the Lodge Dining Room remains too small to be functional:
only 72 chairs (better be patient for evening dinner reservations now priced at twice their true value) with
snacks/meals being served in the great Hall Fireplace Room unattractive since little serious cleaning has taken place. Notice the Great Hall Fireplace devoid of a truly historic lodgepole log fire now replaced by a disappointing propane burner so inefficient that all the historic stones are now covered with soot whose particles rain down upon lodge guests sipping coffee or wine whenever an icy cold chimney downdraft blows.
Perhaps, worse of all, An historic roof composed of highly flamable
wooden shingles not adapted to heavy ice and snow which removes some shingles each spring as compressed
ice and snow inches downslope with glacier-like speed. Real historic lodgepole log fires not permitted in the
fireplace when NPS historians demand a flammable wooden roof vs A NON-COMBUSTIBLE ROOF RESEMBLING
ancient red-cedar shingles allowing snow and ice to glide off. These Historic roofs become very expensive to
maintain with CRLA replacing all or portions of wood shingle roofs on restored structures frequently during summer seasons.
The old historic lodge never had elevators so that compromise was made for safety and disabled codes, but many rooms are disppointingly small providing little in the guest-expected Lake Views; also, window screens which pop out whenever a toddler leans against them as occurred during the first 1995 open summer season.
Several hallways so narrow that one obese person or one guest in a wheelchair blocks access to the dirty public restrooms maintained poorly especially during the last three seasons. Surely, the NPS could have done better for an estimated $18 million plus (some accounting closer to an estimated $30 million) ? ...However, keep in mind, When
the old Lodge was closed in 1989 due to lack of serious maintenance, NPS Management decided that
there should be no Historic Lodge (once the 1915 version was removed)...But the nostalgia-factor won so, today CRLA does, Indeed, have a reconstructed Lodge still enjoyed by many unaware that a special thank you is appropriate to Oregon's former Senior Senator Mark Hatfield.


Derrick Crandall:
Ever wonder why Marriott, or Hilton, or even Choice hotels don't bid on concessions? Pretty simple. Way too much risk -- weather, fire, government shut-downs and more -- and no way to equal the economic gain when you buy and manage the land and improvements just outside a park.

Those hotel companies don't necessarily have the expertise. Many (possibly most) of their locations are actually franchises.

Two of the big players are Aramark and Delaware North Companies. Aramark is huge in stadium/arena concessions, where they have to operate on long term leases in facilities that they don't own. The same goes (mostly) for Delaware North, although they also own an arena (TD Garden in Boston) where I assume they run the concessions themselves.

The other big players include Xanterra and Forever Resorts. I didn't know much about Forever Resorts, but looked them up. Apparently the same company as Forever Living - a multi-level marketing "beauty and wellness" company. They share the same eagle logo and the same address, but there's no mention of the connection on their website.


I stayed in a Roughrider Cabin, and there wasn't a thing I would change about it. I actually enjoyed the smell of wood smoke from the logs I stuffed into the stove - that heated the cabin. The other key was that the bathrooms were thoroughly modern.

The structural improvements to the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite are going to be in the tens of millions. I think it's well worth it.


Ok. There is a certain amount of sticker shock that goes with restoration of historic accomodations...until you factor in time, quality of materials, patina, historical value, and a number of other non-monetary considerations. If you factor in time alone, the cost of these lodges are many times ridiculously low---that comes with amortization over 80-100 years instead of 20 years. The lodges were meant to last, not to be torn down when their 30 year "life-cycle" was over. John Muir maintained that the parks were America's cathedrals. Do we really want to put up junk to honor them? I guarantee that if new lodges and accomodations were built with similar materials as the originals---honoring the places in which they exist---that the costs would be as high---or higher---than the rehabilitations. This is especially true if you factor in the compliance costs and the EXTREMELY CONTROVERSIAL nature of tearing down truly historic buildings.

Additionally, codes are so different now than they were when many lodges and accomodations were built, it isn't even funny. Every system, from foundations to accessibility standards, has to be "improved" to modern codes. THAT IS EXPENSIVE>>>>>. Both park managers and visitors are risk adverse, so ungrounded electrical circuits aren't allowed, handicapped persons must be accomodated, sewage systems can't just run into cesspools anymore, and the list goes on.

Really, it is more a choice of whether we pay for one F-16---or heart surgery for 20 Medicare clients---instead of restoring a historic lodge. In a budget where the NPS---protectors of the core of precious American resources---receives less than .5%, is it reasonable to ask the question whether essential elements of the parks' function (that's providing for the "enjoyment" of resources for those that don't have the Organic Act memorized) need to be "nickeled-and-dimed"?

Ridiculous, if you really think about it. Remember, this is the same government that pushed pallets of cash out of planes in Iraq and can't account for +$2billion in Iraq, alone. How many building restorations would that pay for in parks?


The question was asked -- do concessioners pay NPS to operate in the parks? And the answer is most assuredly yes. First -- concessions contracts are generally only ten years in length. The contract specifies the percentage of gross revenues which goes to the NPS -- and nationally, concessioner franchise fees are now approaching $80 million annually. Just to put that in perspective, that is equal or greater than the amount raised by the National Park Foundation and local friends organizations combined. By law, 80% of the fees paid stay in the park in which the fees are generated, and there is fair latitude for the superintendent of decide on uses of the funds. Some goes into building repairs. And in addition, the concessions contracts require capital investments by the concessioners. Some of the investment is classified as Leasehold Surrender Interests and are adjusted to reflect CPI and physical depreciation. But other investments are simply amortized over the ten year life of the contract. Ever wonder why Marriott, or Hilton, or even Choice hotels don't bid on concessions? Pretty simple. Way too much risk -- weather, fire, government shut-downs and more -- and no way to equal the economic gain when you buy and manage the land and improvements just outside a park.


They absolutely can be saved and should be.


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