KALISPELL, Mont. — People crowded an auditorium at the Flathead Valley Community College for the Glacier National Park’s presentation on the future of the Sperry Chalet Wednesday, after it was almost destroyed by fire last year.
"I think the outpouring and the participation that we saw tonight really is so heartwarming. So many people care so much about the future of our park, their park," said Doug Mitchell, the executive director of the Glacier Park Conservancy.
"To be able to be a part of this solution of what is going to be a historic project to restore the Sperry experience -- it’s really quite an evening," he added.
Throughout the night park officials frequently referred to the Sperry experience, which they say is a full-service chalet in the remote backcountry.
The National Park Service has given Glacier National Park $350,000 to fund this preliminary schematic design effort.
Colorado-based Anderson & Hallas Architects was hired to create four concepts.
So far some of the options the park presented include building a new structure in a different location, doing a restoration as close as possible to the original or an updated and modernized restoration of the original.
If the stone walls, which have been undergoing structural stabilization efforts, are found to be too weak, the option of cabin tents in the area near the ruins is another option.
Some of the reconstruction challenges they face is the chalet's remote location and a short building season due to the weather.
The park says the true condition of the walls is not known yet, but they'd like to use them either as a composite or even a veneer.
"I think there’s a lot of consensus around the idea of using the existing structure in some way as the core of that project," said Mitchell.
The costs for reconstruction have also not yet been determined.
Neither has where the funding will come from, although the Conservancy expressed interest in fundraising and park superintendent Jeff Mow said they're anticipating federal appropriation of the reconstruction.
The park expects to have better cost assessments and design evaluations once the condition of the walls is fully evaluated with X-rays and sonograms.
"I think the solution at Sperry is all about the experience," said Mitchell. “As we heard tonight, from a historical perspective, the Sperry experience has looked different for different generations, so I think today we have the opportunity to decide what that looks like for future generations."
The options can be viewed online at parkplanning.nps.gov. The comment period for the project closes Monday, April 2.
Editor's note: Beth Dunagan author of the memoir "Welcome to Sperry Chalet", wanted to be at the meeting but couldn't. She's written the following :
"Kathy Phillips Aasheim said in 1993 “Without a voice to speak for them, the chalets wouldn’t be there any more.”
The people with all their fond memories, spoke, loud and clear. Again they are rising to the forefront to speak for the love they have for Sperry Chalet.
Over the years since 1954, the stories wash over me. My fond memories of 15 years of living and working, of people who came on their honeymoon, a 5 week baby & parents stayed 5 days during a stormy - time and went to the glacier, and fishing. Couples have become engaged on Lincoln Peak, married on the front steps of the hotel. Held memorial services for hiking companions and family members.
The long visits with guests who shared their days with us, and listened as I recalled my childhood with my cousins, of climbing the area, having total freedom to go places our parents didn’t know about yet. Repelling off the cliffs using only twine off the hay bales as rope. Using an old magnifying glass to view the moss and tiny flowers along the stream.
A family of 5 who arrived a day early for their reservation and the staff made room for them. The next evening the man gave an emotional thanks to the staff, for literally saving his marriage, by caring for them. The dining room guests gave us a standing ovation. It was gratifying to have been able to do this.
Kay Luding always went to bed last, no matter what. One beautiful night, she showed up at the hotel, and went room to room knocking on doors, waking guests and crew to join her outside to view the aurora borealis. Colored lights over the glacier headwall, glowed, spurted and jostled each other to blend in surreal dance in the sky. Everyone who came, lay on the soft rocks, were awed over the experience.
Going forward in time will be exciting. A chance to rebuild, make improvements, giving people the chance to leave their legacy for their children and grandchildren. I am excited about new walls without a view into the next room. To return, and walk through and enjoy the fact that the hotel still stands, complete with the white GNRy on the end of the building to honor the original dreamer."