Public: Preserve Sperry Chalet history, if possible

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Public sentiment toward rebuilding the Sperry Chalet runs toward preserving the existing structure, rather than replacing it with tents or a new chalet.

The public comment period on the chalet ended last week. Glacier National Park officials said it received nearly 400 public comments on four proposed concepts for rebuilding the main dormitory of chalet, which was gutted by the Sprague Fire last Aug. 31.

Approximately 72 percent of those that commented favored some combination of concepts one and two proposed by the National Park Service Park Service in February. Both of those concepts outlined scenarios to use the existing remnant walls of the Sperry Chalet dormitory building to rebuild the chalet with some modernization, while retaining defining historic features and character.

One concept would rebuild the chalet to its state before the fire, with some modifications to bring it up to current code. The second concept modernized the layout a bit more, but still retained the historic character of the chalet. The second concept reduced the overall number of rooms, but added some larger rooms with bunk beds.

Another concept was to build an entirely new chalet to the east of the dining hall and a fourth concept proposed using several tents or yurts instead of a chalet. The tent idea wasn’t well-received. Part of staying in a stone structure in Glacier is that one, generally, has less concern about grizzly bears.

Most people said at least little modernization was in order in the rebuild, noting the famously thin walls of the old structure didn’t afford much in-room privacy.

The effort to rebuild the chalet is on an accelerated schedule, the Park noted in a release last week. A draft environmental assessment should be released in the next few days, with final decision in mid-May.

Architects Anderson Hallas of Colorado have been working with the Park on the design alternatives.

The Park hopes to do additional stabilization work this summer and complete a reconstruction of the chalet by the end of next summer. But first, the remains have to survive the avalanche season, which in Glacier’s high country could ramp up significantly in the next couple of months.

The chalet has been damaged in the past by avalanches, but always remained standing. The remains are currently stabilized by a myriad of 6-by-6 inch solid wooden beams that crews put up last fall.

The ballpark estimate to rebuild the chalet has run from roughly $7 to $12 million.

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