Superintendent: Park is still open

Olympic National Park officials want you to know that the nearly million-acre park is still open.

The park remains open to visitors despite the May 7 fire that destroyed Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge and closed Hurricane Ridge Road indefinitely, ONP Superintendent Sula Jacobs told a crowd of about 60 people at the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon at the Red Lion Hotel on May 10.

“It’s a 933,000-acre park and most areas you can still get to. Places are reopening,” Jacobs said to a round of laughter.

But Hurricane Ridge — which drew 332,820 visitors in fiscal year 2022 — is closed indefinitely, Jacobs said.

A variety of other areas and trailheads, such as Lake Angeles/Heather Park and others, are open, she said. Heart O’ The Hills, now closed for construction work, will partially reopen May 19.

“I’m careful not to make any promises. So I am using a lot ‘if, then’ statements until I am told otherwise,” Jacobs said.

“I don’t have a lot of answers. I will try to get answers. It’s still an active situation. We don’t know how long the investigation will last. Then we need to clean it up,” she said.

Federal fire investigators arrived on May 9 to begin examining the wreckage to determine the cause and origin of the fire. Once they are finished, the park can clean up the hazardous debris.

The 70-year-old, 12,201-square-foot building had housed all the area’s water, wastewater, power and radio systems, Jacobs said. Now all that is gone.

“It will be a long road to get visitors to Hurricane Ridge,” Jacobs said, adding the park service must provide for visitor safety.

“It’s devastating. It was a 12,000-square-foot building and it’s just gone, gone, gone,” she said.

Photo by Jay Cline/Clallam County Fire District 2 / Firefighters from Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue and the Port Angeles Fire Department oversee extinguishing a fire at the Olympic National Park Day Lodge on May 7.

Photo by Jay Cline/Clallam County Fire District 2 / Firefighters from Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue and the Port Angeles Fire Department oversee extinguishing a fire at the Olympic National Park Day Lodge on May 7.

In response to whether the historic building could be expanded now that it is not being renovated, Jacobs said, “That’s a good question, but we’re not anywhere near that stage yet.”

Lee Snook, acting public information officer, said the next step in the park’s public relations plan is to use social media to drive home the point that the park is still open. Then park personnel want to capture people’s memories of the building, she said.

The 17-mile Hurricane Ridge Road has been closed since March 27 to allow preparation for a two-year, $10.8 million renovation project funded through the Great American Outdoors Act. JMG Constructors of Poulsbo personnel had been working on the building since April 3 but were not there last weekend, Snook has said.

The park had aimed to reopen the road and parking lot before Memorial Day, but the fire has changed that.

The lodge, which was built in 1952, was to have its roof replaced and receive upgrades to its plumbing, wiring and HVAC systems in the upgrade.

It had housed interpretive exhibits upstairs and a gift shop and small café run by Aramark, a park concessioner.

Snook said the exhibits had been cleared out prior to the renovation work starting. The topographical map is to be displayed at the Hoh Visitor Center and the rest of the exhibits redistributed throughout the community, she said.

New exhibits also will be created, Snook said.

Jacobs said the park had a lot of construction projects scheduled before the fire, including numerous road projects. Unfortunately, construction season in the Pacific Northwest overlaps with when tourists most like to visit, she said.

Park officials won’t know until later about the status of Clallam Transit’s Hurricane Ridge shuttle, Jacobs said.

Jim Fetzer, Clallam Transit operations manager, has said that transit officials were waiting to hear back from the park before deciding what to do.

Clallam Transit began operating a 45-minute shuttle from The Gateway transit center to the summit of Hurricane Ridge in June 2022. The fare is the same as any of Clallam Transit’s regular routes: adults $1; youths 18 and younger free; and Regional Reduced Fare Permit holders (RRFP) 50 cents. Proof of a park entrance pass must be shown to the driver prior to boarding.

Jacobs said Aramark Parks and Destinations’ Hurricane Ridge Mountain View Café always was going to be closed during the renovation so there are no plans for a food truck.

However, plans had already been made to have a toilet facility — not portable toilets — and a small trailer for staff to work in and take breaks.

No one was injured when the lodge became engulfed in flames and collapsed to its foundation on Sunday. The last image on the building’s webcam was captured at 10:34 a.m. A park ranger discovered the fire at 4:30 p.m.

Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue and Port Angeles Fire Department fighters arrived to find the place already collapsed.