Court Rules to Preserve Historic Structures in Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park will be allowed to continue maintenance of historic, primitive structures within wilderness boundaries after ruling by U.S. District Court Judge.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton in Tacoma dismissed a lawsuit against Olympic National Park. The Dec. 16 ruling will allow the park to continue maintenance of historic, primitive structures within wilderness boundaries.
The ruling acknowledged that the Wilderness Act allows for minimal maintenance to structures that are part of traditional use within the area so long as that maintenance is done in the least intrusive way possible. Primitive trail-side shelters have been used for generations in Olympic National Park to offer hikers refuge from inclement weather.
“We applaud the Court for ruling that the designation of wilderness need not result in the erasure of cultural resources within that landscape,” said Brian Turner, senior field officer and attorney for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We believe that Olympic National Park’s historic cabins, trail shelters, and other rustic structures are an enhancement, not a detriment to experiencing the land’s natural beauty and share the court’s opinion that the Wilderness Act and the National Historic Preservation Act can be used in concert to ensure that Olympic’s heritage is intact for future generations of Park users.”
Recreation community supports finding a solution for historic chalet
Though the Enchanted Valley Chalet was not explicitly named in the court ruling, it will likely make it easier for the park to preserve the popular structure. In 2014, the chalet was moved a short distance from the Quinault River when it was in danger of collapsing into the water, but continued erosion could mean further intervention is required. The structure sits on an active floodplain, making it necessary for the National Park Service to consider several options for the chalet’s future so it does not collapse into the river.
In August of 2016, Washington Trails Association and other members of the outdoor recreation community supported a proposal to move the chalet to another spot in the Enchanted Valley.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the chalet was built in 1930-31 by the Olympic Recreation Company for use as a mountain retreat by hikers and horseback riders. During World War II the chalet was briefly used as an Aircraft Warning Station. The chalet was used as an emergency shelter and ranger station.
The East Fork Quinault River Trail is one of the most popular trails on the southeast portion of the park and hundreds of hikers visit the Enchanted Valley to take in the tremendous views and see the chalet each year.