Designs for new Sperry presented

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A big billy mountain goat guards the Sperry Chalet.

Fans of Sperry Chalet got their first look Tuesady at how the new lodge might look when rebuilt.

Last month, Glacier National Park announced that it was weighing four concepts for restoring the fire-ravaged chalet, and given the work to Colorado-based Anderson Hallas Architects.

One of the firm’s principals, Liz Hallas, presented floor plans for each of those options Tuesday night, drawing a crowd of over 100 to the Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls. Another 179 viewers tuned in via a Facebook Live video of the event.

“The intent with Concept One is really to bring it back as close as it was” before the Sprague Fire, Hallas explained. The internal layout would be essentially the same, but there would be some updates for today’s building standards: wider stairs, slightly thicker walls, and one or two rooms that would be accessible to disabled guests.

Concept Two would involve “restoring the dormitory in place, but modernized, using as much of the historic fabric as possible.”

This option would include code upgrades, insulation for the walls and some different options for guests. It would place two bunk rooms on each floor, and two or three beds in the rest of the rooms.

The third concept involves preserving Sperry’s walls as a ruin and building a new lodge nearby. Hallas’ site diagram placed a new building a few hundred feet northeast of the old lodge, on the other side of Gunsight Pass Trail, but she stressed that “this is by no means the final location.”

She said that this concept aimed to accommodate a similar number of people – 50 guests and 10 or 11 staff – as the first two, but the arrangements of bunk rooms, bedrooms and common areas would differ.

The fourth concept would also preserve old Sperry as a ruin, but house visitors in canvas tents or yurts. Hallas’s rendering showed 16 tents scattered around the area.

So far, she said, 86 percent of the public comments favor Concept One, Concept Two, or both.

Several factors could affect the decision. The chalet took a direct hit from an avalanche in 2011, and Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow worries it could happen again.

“I’m concerned that if we’re going to make a significant investment for the next hundred years, that it’s not something that can get wiped away by a really bad winter or a really bad avalanche,” he told the Daily Inter Lake last month.

The U.S. Geological Survey is currently studying if and how avalanche activity in Glacier is shifting. Hallas said the architectural team is waiting on that research’s results, and looking at ways to protect the site.

“There are two strategies that have been discussed,” she said. “Diversionary tactics to keep it away from the structure itself, and within the structure, what might be done to prevent further damage” if an avalanche hits.

While Sperry is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Hallas said that “we do have latitude to be able to do those code compliance upgrades” discussed in Concepts One and Two

The project’s costs and budget constraints are also uncertain, but Glacier Conservancy Executive Director Doug Mitchell had good news on that front: An undisclosed individual had made a $30,000 seed contribution to the rebuilding effort.

After the presentation, employees from Glacier National Park and Anderson Hallas discussed the options one-on-one with guests at informational tables. Columbia Falls residents Dave and Connie Hopkins voiced support for Concepts One and Two.

“I think it’s been very good from a public hearing standpoint just to get all the concepts” presented, Hopkins said.

Glacier will continue taking public comments through April 2. More information is available at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/sperrychalet2018. Comments may be submitted through that website, or mailed to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Sperry Chalet, PO Box 128, West Glacier, MT 59936.

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4407.

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