Sperry Chalet’s future a question mark

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It’s difficult to imagine Sperry Chalet being rebuilt as anything other that the beautiful stone lodge it was for well over a century. It’s even harder to imagine it being rebuilt at a different, less avalanche-prone spot.

The rebirth of Sperry Chalet has begun with a schematic design process that has put forward four options of how the beloved chalet might rise again. The 1914 landmark in Glacier National Park succumbed to the Sprague Fire during last summer’s vicious fire season. The grief left in the wake of the destruction was palpable among those whose families had been making the trek to the backcountry chalet for generations. Accessible only by trail, on foot or horseback, Sperry Chalet was some people’s favorite spot in the world.

Now comes the hard part of figuring out how to move forward. The remaining stone walls were braced to withstand the winter, and a recent flyover indicated the walls are still standing.

Glacier Park officials and the park’s support partner, the Glacier National Park Conservancy, are eying a 2020 reconstruction date, an ambitious goal given the unknown, but likely hefty, financial investment it will take to rebuild the chalet. Park officials expect a federal appropriation would cover most of the construction cost, but federal funding can be a fickle thing. The nonprofit Conservancy is sure to go the distance in fundraising, but who knows how many millions of dollars the rebuild will cost.

The options on the table include restoring the dormitory with minimal updates; restoring Sperry but modernizing the facility; rebuilding at a nearby, less avalanche-prone location; or creating a lower-impact facility using tents or yurts.

While the knee-jerk reaction is to want to rebuild the chalet as close as possible to its original stature, it does make sense to seriously consider relocating the chalet and building in a safer spot. Glacier Park Superintendent Jeff Mow told an Inter Lake reporter last week that one of his major concerns is the current site’s future suitability.

Now is the time for the public to get involved in the scoping process and make your voices heard. The park is taking comments until April 2. Comments can be submitted online at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/sperrychalet2018 or be mailed to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Sperry Chalet, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, MT 59936.

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