Glacier seeks new Sperry with old walls

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A mountain goat walks on the “lawn” of the Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park in this photo from 2014. (Chris Peterson photo)

Sperry Chalet’s 18-inch-thick stone walls sheltered Glacier National Park hikers for over a century. If the park has its way, they will again soon.

This past winter, Glacier issued four scoping options for rebuilding the historic chalet. After a spirited showing of public interest, it has released an environmental impact statement with three paths forward.

Alternative A, the park’s preferred course of action, combines scoping options 1 and 2: restoring it “as close as it was” before the fire and restoring it “in place, but modernized,” respectively.

“It would restore the chalet dormitory, reflecting its period of significance (1914-1949), using the original walls and site, provide for some critical updates to current building codes and improve life safety,” the assessment reads. “The visitor experience would be very similar to what it has been for decades by using as much of the remaining historic fabric as possible.”

The new chalet’s capacity would match the old one of about 54 guests and 11 staff.

The document identified the following improvements: seismic walls to better withstand earthquakes and avalanches; fire resistant materials; design and fuel management for fire safety; fire detection; measures to make water more available; making the stairs to the second floor less steep; providing one for disabled guests.

According to Glacier spokesperson Lauren Alley, design specifics and cost estimates are still in development with Anderson Hallas Architects.

Construction for this option would take place in two phases. This summer, a crew of 12 to 25 workers would inspect the outer walls, build a roof and install interior walls. Phase II would complete the project.

Alley said that the goal is to complete Phase II in 2019, but “cost considerations and other unforeseen events or conditions could affect the construction schedule.”

Rebuilding in such a remote location will be no easy feat. The environmental assessment predicts that Phase I alone will require 200 tons of materials and equipment, to be either carried up by pack animals or flown in by helicopters, an effort requiring 350 to 520 flights. The builders may also use stone from the nearby quarry that was used for the original chalet.

The environmental assessment details the possible ecological impacts of this work, and of two additional alternatives: preserving the walls as a ruin and either doing nothing or building a new dormitory.

The assessment is open for public comment until May 7. To view the document and submit comments, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/SperryChalet2018. It may also be requested by calling 406-888-7898, and comments may be mailed to Superintendent, Glacier National Park, Attn: Sperry Chalet, P.O. Box 128, West Glacier, Montana 59936.

Finally, a public meeting about the project on Monday, April 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Room 139 of Flathead Valley Community College’s Arts and Technology Building.

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

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