Monday, December 31, 2012

Here is the tally for the month of December for the access to Hurricane Ridge complementing other recreation:

5 days were open from 9 to dusk as scheduled.
3 out of 18 scheduled days were closed all day
6 out of 18 days opened late (not counting one day at 9:07) Average late opening was 10:30
4 out of 18 closed early due to weather
2 days of full parking
15 of 31 days were closed.

The Park will say that the road was closed 17% (3/18) of the time, better than historical averages.
By the standards of any other road system the road was open 95.5 hours out of 744 hours in the month, or 13%.
In January there are 13 scheduled open days.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Contrast this:
I firmly believe the park will not be successful unless the communities around it are successful," new ONP superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said. "Make those relationships before you need those relationships." "When you work with anybody whose experiences are different than yours, it behooves you to shut up and listen for a while."
With this:
“Given the current park budget and weekend popularity of Hurricane Ridge, providing visitor access on the three busiest days of the week makes good sense and complements the variety of other recreational opportunities that Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula offer.” -ONP response to “Why does it cost so much?”

This decision was made by a handful of senior ONP staff, none of whom have been at ONP for more than five years. In contrast, the City of Port Angeles, Clallam County Commissioners, Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, Port Angeles Business Association, Port Angeles Downtown Association, Sequim Chamber of Commerce, Peninsula Bed and Breakfast Association, as well as many individuals all are on record supporting EVERY DAY access to Hurricane Ridge, and believe strongly enough to donate money to make it happen. Who has more credibility in determining what “complements the variety of other recreational opportunities that the Olympic Peninsula offer?
Another important distiction is that through a series of land use decisions including the 1984 creation of the Buckhorn Wilderness there is no other viable access to winter recreation on the Olympic Peninsula.  The 1984 Buckhorn designation was created while the road to Hurricane Ridge was open seven days a week and there was no reason to think that would change. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thank you for the chance to provide correct information about access to Hurricane Ridge.

From the November press release:“Keeping Hurricane Ridge Road open daily through the winter is a very different task than providing daily access to the park's low elevation roads, and is significantly more costly and difficult,” Suess said.  However, this new explanation indicates that they spend just as much money for these other places, probably more.  The road crew costs for three guys working 40 hours per week would be the same.  The law enforcement costs are greater because each place has its own staff.  Lake Crescent/Sol Duc has three, Elwha two or more, and Staircase two.  The additional costs for sand is slightly more but relatively insignificant.  Fuel may be more, but doubtful due to the cost just to get to Sol Duc and Staircase.  Fuel also is a relatively small portion of the cost.

1.  "The full time crew's normal work day is 5 am to 3:30 pm." The road does not open until the crew is essentially done for the day.  The exception is that occasionally, the plow/sand truck will make a second pass in the afternoon.  Compare that to any other winter road operation, where the crews plow as needed during storms while the road remains open to public vehicles.

During the seven day trail period, on average it took three hours to clear the road each day, which would be 21 hours in an average week.  Even the extreme weeks were less than 40 hours per week.

2.  "Three employees maintain Camp David Jr and East Beach, Olympic HS and Whiskey Bend, and Sol Duc."  CDJ and EB roads are shared with the county.  I am pretty familiar with East Beach Road, and I would be surprised if the Park spends ten days a year on it.  The County plows it when it snows.  PUD clears trees after windstorms.  Olympic HS road closes at variable gates depending on snowfall.  It is not plowed.  I have never seen Whiskey Bend plowed.  Sol Duc is closed to the public whenever it snows.  If they clear one lane, why not both and keep it open?  Also the GMP states that Sol Duc should close in the winter.
In 2012 there were 7,337 Jan-March vehicles on Hurricane Ridge.  The other areas that the park is busy maintianing were 52 at Staircase; 4,661 at Elwha; 750 at Sol Duc; and 5,874 at East Beach. Yet,
"We cannot justify taxpayer money to maintain weekday winter access to Hurricane Ridge Road for a relatively small number of people.”
3.  "In keeping with National Park Service standards for safety..."  What are those standards?  Why are they different for Hurricane Ridge than Lake Crescent, for example?  Why are they different than ONF and/or other National Forest and Park areas that do maintain access?
Normal operations at Stevens Pass 12/7/12

Second Plow at Stevens

Rotary Plow at Stevens 12/7/12

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Alternative Reality

Let's pretend for a minute that instead of :

"Three members of the park’s nine-person road crew will change their duty schedules this week and work full-time on maintaining weekend access to Hurricane Ridge.
Of the remaining six crew members, one is a mechanic, charged with servicing and maintaining the park’s fleet of trucks and heavy equipment and three are tasked with keeping roads cleared and maintained along the park’s northern and eastern edges including Sol Duc, Lake Crescent, Elwha and Staircase. The remaining two road crew members are stationed in Quinault to keep the Quinault, Queets and Hoh Rain Forest roads clear and passable."
Lets imagine if they went with a program that the three guys for Hurricane Ridge plus the three guys for the northeast all worked together to do whatever was needed each day.  Keep in mind that Crater Lake keeps 30 miles of high elevation road open 24/7 with six guys. Mount Baker has seven guys for 24/7 coverage plus an smilar amount of low elevation work as ONP, and does it for about half the cost.  In Utah a six man crew keeps the Little Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon roads open as well as a stretch of Interstate 215.  That would be the equivalant of Sol Duc and Hurricane with Highway 101 in between as well.
This week, the three Hurricane Ridge guys supposedly worked all day on Friday to clear the 6-8 foot drifts that had built up during the week.  The road was closed all day Friday.  On Saturday, they sanded the road, finished what they didn't do on Friday and at any rate were done and headed back to headquarters by about 9:30.  On Sunday, there was no new precipitation, and the road opened at 7:15.  Maximum one guy in the sand truck.  Going into this week, there is no snow forecast until Thursday so the crew of six could then work on the other projects in the northeast portion of the park.

Some precise weather forecasting such as is available to the WSDOT from would make it even more efficient.
This is a very typical scenario that would allow the HR road to open every day and whatever else the other three guys do also get done. 
Imagining the worst case scenario of a major windstorm that fells multiple trees across the other roads: 
At Lake Crescent Highway 101 is maintained by WSDOT and East Beach Road by the County.  Sol Duc Road has been closed in the winter, and the GMP says it will be open seasonally. 
The Olympic Hot Springs Road has been closed the last two years for dam removal, and regardless always closes when it is snow covered.  For the last two years the Whiskey Bend Road was closed due to a major washout fixed by an outside contractor, then a minor culvert replacement also fixed by an outside contractor. 
Staircase has been closed the past five years during the winter since the big hump fire.

So there doesn't seem to be any urgency in keeping those areas open. At the very worst, close the Hurricane Ridge Road a couple days during the week to get caught up.  It would be better than closing it all the time as is the case now.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So much for accountability.  I wrote a letter to the West Regional Director outlining specific details where the Hurricane Ridge decision is contrary to National Park Service policy.  I got back a generic press release, amazingly similar to the response to Summer's letter to the editor.

Here is my orignal letter:

Christine Lehnertz, Regional Director
National Park Service
333 Bush Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94104-2828

Dear Ms. Lehnertz,

As Sarah Creachbaum becomes the new Superintendent of Olympic National Park, I would like to bring to your attention to an ongoing issue at ONP: winter access to Hurricane Ridge. 

It is troubling to the local community that there is a set of standards that seemingly apply only to Hurricane Ridge: For example: cost per visitor justification; safety; and road crew hours.  

Support for increased winter access to Hurricane Ridge permeates both the spirit and the letter of National Park policy as stated in NPS Management Policies, Director’s Orders, and the ONP superintendent’s compendium. The park has an obligation to provide opportunities for winter recreation and provide adequate funding to do so.

Excerpts from NPS policies contradict current Hurricane Ridge management, and support many of the suggested solutions to increased winter access.  NPS policy:

·         Clarifies that winter recreation is an appropriate use within Parks in general and Olympic in particular due to the mention of winter use in the founding documents, annexation of Deer Park, and the current GMP.  8.1.1, 8.2.2

·         Further emphasizes that park managers must provide visitors from all walks of life the opportunity for meaningful educational and recreational experiences-experiences that inspire and lead to visitor enjoyment and a greater sense of resource stewardship. (Introduction)

·         Establishes recreation as a park value that should not be impaired without careful consideration. 1.4.4, 1.4.6.  Four days a week road closure impairs that value.

·         Defines an unacceptable impact as one that diminishes opportunities for current or future generations to enjoy, learn about, or be inspired by park resources or values; and unreasonably interferes with an appropriate use.

·         Ensures that there are adequate funds and staff to conserve and protect the resources (including recreation) for which parks are responsible and provide for the enjoyment of the same.

·         The Park has an obligation to support the federal policy of actively promoting the health and personal fitness of the general public. 1.5

Restrictions on appropriate uses should be minimal:

·         Restrictions placed on recreational uses that have otherwise been found to be appropriate will be limited to the minimum necessary to protect park resources and values, and promote visitor safety and enjoyment. Any restriction of appropriate recreational use will be limited to what is necessary to protect park resources and values, to promote visitor safety and enjoyment, or to meet park management needs.  8.2.2

·         Any closures or restrictions-other than those imposed by law-must be consistent with applicable laws, regulations, and policies, and require a written determination by the superintendent that such measures are needed to protect public health and safety; and prevent unacceptable impacts to park resources or values.

·         Any restrictions imposed will be fully explained to visitors and the public.  Visitors will be given appropriate information on how to keep adverse impacts to a minimum and how to enjoy the safe and lawful use of the parks.

Arbitrarily closing 4 days a week regardless of weather does not meet the standard of closing for visitor safety.  Last year there were over 60 days that the road was closed during the 7 month winter period despite clear roads and no drifting or avalanche threat.

·         Park visitors must assume a substantial degree of risk and responsibility for their own safety when visiting areas that are managed and maintained as natural, cultural, or recreational environments. 8.2.5

·         NPS superintendents will use their discretion to determine the level of program resources and the types of programs needed to manage visitor risk within their park unit.  This will depend on the resources, values, park-specific mission, the feasibility of various program levels, activities offered at the park, the nature of the park visits, the degree of risks to visitors at the park, and the history of visitor injury in the park.   DO 50C 4.1

·         The Service will work cooperatively with other federal, tribal, state, and local agencies; organizations, and individuals to carry out the responsibility to provide a safe and healthful environment. 8.2.5

Off Peak use should be encouraged to alleviate congestion, which is a problem at Hurricane:

·         Encourage visitor use of lesser-known parks and underutilized areas; use during non-peak seasons, days of the week, and times of the day; and visitation to related sites beyond park boundaries, as appropriate, to enhance overall visitor experiences and protection of resources. Director’s Order #17 4.7

Partnerships with local entities are strongly encouraged:

·         Reinforces cooperation with federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as individuals and organizations, to provide visitor enjoyment, and address mutual interests in the quality of life for community residents. 1.10

·         In the spirit of partnership, the Service will also seek opportunities for cooperative management agreements with state or local agencies that will allow for more effective and efficient management of the parks. 1.10

In the ROD of the ONP GMP, the reasons given for the limited Hurricane Ridge schedule are “Operational and staffing requirements, along with unpredictable severe weather conditions, make a long-term commitment to consistently opening the road for seven day a week winter access infeasible.”

The Superintendent’s Compendium states “Due to public safety concerns, the Hurricane Ridge Road may be closed at the Heart O’ The Hills entrance based on environmental conditions.”  Monday through Thursday closure is not based on environmental conditions.

To summarize, the community has consistently expressed a desire for increased winter access to Hurricane Ridge.  A number of solutions have been proposed, with a range of costs, including cooperation with local and state governments.  A meaningful dialogue with interested stakeholders would be helpful.

Although I am writing only as a private citizen, broad community support for increased winter access is evident, particularly shown by raising over $150,000 in donations to ONP over the past two years to fund winter access. The two year trial resulted in a 35% increase in winter visits. The trial also resulted in an increase in visitor spending greater than the cost based on the MP3 model, used throughout the NPS system.



Greg Halberg
The National Park Service recently announced that access to Paradise in Mount Rainier NP will be closed Tuesday's and Wednesday's this winter.  Again, no public input on this decision.  Here is what will happen.
Notice that in 1993, HR and MR are nearly the same.  The Ridge was open seven days a week.  In 2000 and 2001 HR was open again seven days a week after the record snows of 1999, when the HR road was closed most of the winter (Don't ask me why the HR 1999 numbers are so high even though the road was closed from mid January through late May, they are the Parks numbers, taken from the YTD numbers through April here).  It is a pretty safe bet that the MR numbers will follow a similar path.  The Hurricane Ridge closure also started as Tuesday and Wednesday in the 1995-1998 ish time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thank you if you arrived here from the Seattle Times.  And Thank-You to John Kinmonth.  Free Hurricane Ridge stands for three things:
The Ridge
  1. The Hurricane Ridge Road can and should be open at least as far as the Switchback trailhead every day, 365 days a year.  ONP's excuses for why that cannot happen are simply not true.  Closures and late openings also diminish the quality of the experience.
  2. The distruction of the Waterhole Hut was an illegal action by ONP staff.  The Hut should be replaced, and in fact more huts should be installed along the non-wilderness road corridors which are closed in winter.
  3. The existing ski area has a minimal impact on the enviroment, yet plays a critical role in the community, particularly getting young future supporters of wild places away from their screens and into nature.  ONP is currently stonewalling improvements allowed in the General Mangement Plan.
Details in support of our claims are detailed in the pages on the right, and will continue to be updated.  See also

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ONP learned thier lesson in 1991.  This time they just tore it down without telling anyone.
Waterhole Sign-in Log Books Highlights
Part 2: Books 4-5, 1982 to 1989
Selected historical notes and visitor comments compiled by Rod Farlee.
"Thanks for making this unique experience possible. Tony & gang 12-13-82"
"Wow! What a beautiful spot! To have a hut like this at the end of a yellow-blister-ski-in is a joy. That you Jack Hughes and the N.P.S. for a New Hampshireman this cabin is a beaut and what deep snow! Met two parties today coming in here - quite a popular place. Bill Bittle, Jan. 1, 1983"
"We just took a vote - 3 to 2 in favor of staying here until July. M A Leonard and party, Seattle, 1-2-83"
Steve Holm - 22 Jan '83
[note: Steve Holm in 1977 broke his femur and was treated and helo-evac'd at Waterhole by Dr. Sam Baker, volunteer John Wegmann, and ranger Jack Hughes.]
"Cabin clean and neat. Incredibly cozy. Dave Davies + Charlie Wiggins, Bainbridge Is. 2-26-83"
"This cabin is a superb idea. Linda Boring, 3/24/83"
"This cabin is wonderful. Thanks to all who keep it in such great shape. Christy Johnson, Seattle, March 27, 1983"
"Why aren't there more huts like this? Kelly Mason, Seattle"
"Thankful for such beautiful weather, bright moon, good friends & cozy cabin. Liese Clebsch & John Dean, 24 April 1983"
"This is a wonderful little hut. There should be more. Eric Schimscel, Port Angeles, May 1, '83"
"Nothing beats being warm and dry. Rachael Lavengood + Deb Willard, 12/18/83"
"Great little hut. We enjoyed the fire and the facilities. Kerry, Packer + Mary Holden 12/18/83"
"This is a great place to warm up and relax. Thanks guys. Rick Vanthoff, Joe Parr, Alan Hill, Gig Harbor, 1/1/84"
"Thanks for the hut. Make, David, Leann, Jerry, David, January 28, 1984"
"A warm stove to greet us! Thanks to Jack Hughes for keeping this up - Let us know when 'Hut 2' work begins! 2-18-84"
"Feb. 24, Ken Zeigler & Lance Coe spent the night via Grand Lake and then on to Deer Park. Will ski down Dr. Park Rd."
"I love this place! Pat Burkhardt 26 Feb '84"
"A dream come true! 3 days of snow and a stove to boot! Sean & Maria Sullivan, Berkeley Calif. 3-6-84"
"Great hospitality in this park. Thanks. 7 students from Anacortes High School, March 7 '84"
"We skied through wet concrete to arrive at this wonderful haven. Dave Freiband, Missoula MT, March 20"
"Wonderful home this hut has offered us. D. Freiband"
"Much appreciate the hospitality. Al McGuire, Seattle, 4/21/84"
"San Antonio, Texas 4/24/84"
"Cabin is warm and cozy. After spending a wet night on Hurricane Ridge w/a leaky tent, this is a paradise! Don & Lynda Mollick, Nov. 11 '84"
[Poem in Chinese and translation]
"Here by the campfire's flicker
deep in my blanket furled
I long for the peace of the pine-gloom
when world is speaking to world.
Sachio Ashida, 1/24/84"
"We are claiming the all-time record for number of sleepers in the hut - 9! This hut was a relief to my eyes & weary bones to ski up to! Reachout Expeditions, Winter Staff Training, 12/2/84"
"Finding this cabin really made the night. Everyone warm and happy. Steve Merritt"
"Was happy to have the hut to stay in last night. Pretty cozy arrangements with all 9 of us on the floor. Glenn Powell"
"Sure do appreciate a place like this when arriving in the dark! Thanks Jack! Sure do love Olympic N. Park! Bill Schaarschmidt"
"Great time here at the hut! This is awesome country + great skiing. I praise God for this warm place in the midst of this winter wonderland. Bruce 'Bronco' Hige"
"What a wonderful warm, dry place. Cindy Merritt"
"I tip my hat to Jack & the others who help maintain this hut. Craig Olson, Dec. 16 '84"
"Great hut. Fantastic. Bob Weyl & family, Dec. 23"
"Dec. 23. Alan Zachwieja. Great hut! Just like the good old days in the friendly back country, with a little bit of dry firewood and kindling, a bit of food, a few necessities for that late arrival or the 'almost emergency'. Consideration for the next fellow. Wisdom of the wilderness. How can we convince them of how good it used to be... and is in some places... and can be? 'With love' he answered 'and peace within.'"
"A magic mecca in the woods - fine winter wonderland - so welcome. Thanks!! Kevin Saunders, Amanda Romig, Dec. 26 84"
"A nice spot to stop, this. Thanks to all for providing it. Ying Wu, Seattle, 12/26"
"The hut sure is as beautiful as it ever was! Kathleen Grimbley, Seattle"
"A real outstanding nook in the woods. Thanks and we have to come back next season. Don + Lynda Mollick and group 1-12-85"
"Can't we afford to construct a series of cabins? Nice destination vs. snow cave."
"Can we afford to build another? This one was built by citizens at no cost to the government! Another is planned. Jack Hughes, 16 Jan 85"
"Hut is very homey. Hank Shelgrove, Port Townsend Jan. 20, 1985"
"Oh what a shame to leave here. Brian, Ev, Jean + Steve, Victoria B.C."
"I think this cabin is the best thing in the world! I'm sure everyone agrees. BDK + 9 of us."
"This cabin is great! R - '84"
"Like totally twitchin' hut - Alyn -"
"I have been dreaming about this place for days. Chuck Hasty"
"We love this little hut! Patty G."
"We love this hut! It's nic to be warm. Cindy Johansen, 6 Reachout Girls from Anacortes, Feb. 27, 1985"
"The hut's great. Robin Dursch"
"This hut was a sight for sore eyes. Who ever built this hut is our friend forever. Anacortes Polar Bear Expedition 3/7/85"
"Ah, another glorious trip to the wonderful ski hut! Decided last night was our 5th time to the hut. How lucky we are! Pat Burkhardt + Annette Jenard 3/10/85"
"I've been waiting years for this. James Applegate 316/85"
"This hut is something I thought one only dreamed of. We've been scheming about such a trip since summer '83 in far-off Maine. We made it! Spent 3 fabulous days and nights here. Randi Freeman, David Freiband, Missoula MT, 3/19/85"
"Joy, Rapture, I give it 4 stars. Steve Fram, Michigan, 20 Mar '85"
"This is a beautiful place, cozy hut, great company, wonderful ranger. Thanks loads, Janet, Sue, Ann Arbor, MI. 20 Mar 95"
"This hut is clean and very cozy. Enjoying the feeling of snowbound security. L. Davis, H. Snelgrove, Nordland, March 29, '85"
"What a beautiful hut! Snowshoeing in, this hut was a wonderful (read 'warm') surprise. Doug Hamilton, Minnesota"
"The peace and stillness of the ski hut and the mountains in winter is a balm for the spirit - ahhh... Pat Burkhardt, Dec 27, 1985"
"This hut has been greatly appreciated by all. Friday Harbor Polar Bear Expedition of 6, Feb 3-7, 1986"
"Wonderful hut, all the comforts of home. Michelle + Mike Bray, March 22, 1986"
"From Grand Valley, up Badger valley, the snow hid the trail. Under cornice... postholing 3-4 feet through a lot of it... extremely dangerous and exhausting. Thank God for this cabin. Robert Paul, Glenn Johnson, Gavin Rowley, May 20-22, 1986"
"Praise the Park Service for finally lifting the closure and opening the road to snow level, instead of having to walk six miles of bare pavement, as has been the case for most of the past five weeks. dave mckee, 7 Dec 1986"
"This little hut is a life-saver! Enjoy. Eric McDonald, Jan 22, 1987"
"Hope all enjoy the hut because there's not too many around, Carmen Olivarez 1-22-87"
"All eleven of us are in the hut. Very comfortable + warm in the hut. January 24, 1987"
"We hold the record - 10 packed into the hut - this sure beats tents! Barbara"
"We had to walk 12.9 miles from Heart O'the Hills because the road was closed. Anacortes Polar Bear Expedition of 8, Feb '87"
"19 Oct 87 - Hut work party - group will earn a weekend trip here this winter by splitting and stacking wood for winter. Jack Hughes"
"J H opening hut for the season. Plows working on 10 ft drifts! Jack Hughes, 17 Dec 1987"
"Congratulations on building a great HUT! Phil, Sheila, Peter Costain, Carmel, CA 12/29/87"
Coupeville Polar Bear Expedition of 7, 1-27-88.
Anacortes Polar Bear Expedition, 2-24-88.
"What an awesome place you people have built here. Bill Ell 3-12-88"
"This hut is tres cool. What a project. S. Case, 3/12/88"
"Marvelous abode in the mountains. Our marriage thanks the builders of this hut that we didn't have to build a snow cave. Sabor & Susan Benda, Montana, 5/3/88"
"Thanks everyone for taking such good care of the hut. This was, I believe, its 20th year and your good care of it may allow it another 20! For those who don't know or have forgotten, the hut was designed, built and placed here thru the efforts of people like John Swedstedt, Nils Lingvall, John Siemens, Bob Allman, Ed Hopfner, O. Kintner, Eric Burr + of course Jack Hughes. 5-7-88 Kelsey Redlin + Bill Kintner"
"4 Oct 1989 - Jack Hughes + Janet Kailin Rangers - hauling in new stove"
"6 Jan 1990 - Jack Hughes, ranger, new stove pipe + roof jack - donated"
"6 Jan 90 - Colby age 5, Jordan age 8, Jim, John Siemens"
"We've got 16 in the cabin. Nice place to share. Joe + Carter Breslin, Port Townsend, 1-13-90"
Log ends 6-13-90. Logs 1990-2012 were not deposited in Park archives.
Photo from Winter 2012 Patagonia Catalog

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

FOIA response from ONP

So, they are saying that they don't need to follow DO 8.2 which states:

·         Restrictions placed on recreational uses that have otherwise been found to be appropriate will be limited to the minimum necessary to protect park resources and values, and promote visitor safety and enjoyment. Any restriction of appropriate recreational use will be limited to what is necessary to protect park resources and values, to promote visitor safety and enjoyment, or to meet park management needs.  8.2.2

·         Any closures or restrictions-other than those imposed by law-must be consistent with applicable laws, regulations, and policies, and require a written determination by the superintendent that such measures are needed to protect public health and safety; and prevent unacceptable impacts to park resources or values.

·         Any restrictions imposed will be fully explained to visitors and the public.  Visitors will be given appropriate information on how to keep adverse impacts to a minimum and how to enjoy the safe and lawful use of the parks.

·         Reinforces cooperation with federal, state, local and tribal governments, as well as individuals and organizations, to provide visitor enjoyment, and address mutual interests in the quality of life for community residents. 1.10

·         In the spirit of partnership, the Service will also seek opportunities for cooperative management agreements with state or local agencies that will allow for more effective and efficient management of the parks. 1.10

Monday, November 5, 2012

ONP has stated that the public comments during the General Management Plan process did not address weekday access. 
Nearly all the comments were in favor of increased winter access and increased winter use.  No comments recommended decreased access, except to the downhill ski area.   
Some relevant public comments:
“I believe every effort should be made to keep all existing roads open and maintained for public access… The Hurricane Ridge road alone should have year-round access, including every effort to keep it open during the winter months”
“A couple of issues that need to be addressed are better access to Hurricane Ridge and Deer Park during the winter months…road crews work on an as needed basis earlier in the week to stay ahead…”
“Having Hurricane Ridge open more often and more consistently would be a big plus to our business community”- Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, representing over 500 local businesses.
The few negative comments were mostly opposed to the ski area, which would not operate during the week, allowing more opportunity for those that prefer more solitude.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Waterhole Sign-in Log Books Highlights
Part 1: Books 1-3, 1971 to 1982
Selected historical notes and memorable visitor comments compiled by Rod Farlee.
4 April 1971 - Jack Hughes "snow = 4 ft above roof peak. If I did not know where to dig I would not have found hut. Took longer to dig out door than to ski here in wet slow snow."
Hut used on many trips to service Eagle Point weather station.
Many visits by Ranger Eric Burr, Nils & Keith Lingvall, Dr. Bob and Joan Allman & Bob Jr., John and Jim Siemens, John Swedstedt (all involved in building the hut).
"22 Aug 1971 putting hut up on raised platform - FCA's Becker and Rinehart, rangers Hughes, Baldwin, Bangle, Fowles, Knost, Whitney"
"Cabin is a fine place; many thanks to NPS!" H & N Sharpe, 12/30/71
"X-country ski tour class" - 21 Feb 1972
"Jan 14-15. I love this warm retreat in the mountains. Wish we had many more. Thanks. Sharon Willoughby"
"14-15 Jan. Too short of a time to relieve all the speediness of the city. Though a little blue and purple mountain silence as the sun sinks gold behind the mountain of the goddesses and gods (Olympus) does wonders for my soul. Whispers of wind in the forest and, from the end of the road up Obstruction Peak, the while full sound of rushing water, invisible down below. Cold wet feet tingling beside a crackling fire and lentil stew full of fresh cooked carrots & onions & green pepper - a carrot never tasted so sweet. The moonlight from a quarter moon shone bright enough from high in the southwest sky that the trees cast clear dark shadows on the bright snow. But still the stars shone thru, so special to see when city lights have obscured too long the sky at night for me. It is a very special gift to each of us this place of warmth to ease the cold & discomfort of winter nights, it gives to each that essential regeneration of our spirits thru the peach and nurturance of our Mother the Earth. I appreciate the work people have done to make this possible. - Carolyn"
"Summer, the first day I am here, '72, Brian Bakke.
A find feathered wind soars among the citadels of ancient stone, perching now for a moment upon a throne of weathered pine, singing silently.
No thoughts.
No words.
Only wind.
And where is the ego of a mountain? Flowing perhaps with the grief of a flower, severed for its beauty, sniffed, and thrown away.
Mingling perhaps with the hatred of the marmot for the trails, the trash, and the tromping of weekend campers
Pulsing, maybe, with the outrage of a pine murdered for its flesh to burn in a moment so many years of determined growth.
And where like this mighty river of ego and sense of injustices.
I have looked, but it does not flow here. The sound of its current seem to flow only from the voices of man, from the mouths of the friends, from the depths of my own mind.
The mountains are. It is enough."
"My first time touring and I love it!" Bob Allman, Jr., Jan. 6, 1974
Troop 303 Boy Scouts of America, 8 scouts, 1-19-74
"Dug out about 4 feet of snow to come in. This is my idea of ski touring - no tracks, no blizzards." Mills Davidson, 2-17-74
"Thank you all for the splendid accomodations. 4 from Bush School of Seattle 3-30-74"
"Hut is kept clean and in good spirits by people who stay here." 4-6-74
"This cabin much appreciated after a tough hike in wet snow." 4-24-74
"All the comforts of home. Like to stay all winter!" 12-14-74
"Our thanks and appreciation to Jack Hughes and the other folks who take care of this hut." 12-28-74
"The cabin enables one to enjoy the quietness and peacefulness of the mountains - only the music of the wind, accompanied by the dance of the snow elves. May each who stays here share in the enchantment that the Olympics freely offer. - N. Bittner, Jan. 3, 1975"
Sunday, Jan. 26, 1975 rescue operation "Broken leg a mile toward Obstruction Pt. Taken out by helicopter. - Jack Hughes"
Emergency cache in hut: sleeping bag, flares, food, First Aid kit, fire extinguisher, axe.
"ONP is almost better in winter!"
"We've spent three peaceful nights in Waterhole - Could spend another 6 months. - B. Womack, N. Bittner, Feb. 17, 1975
"We really appreciated the comforts this cabin provided. Thank you to everyone who made it so nice. Marie Lorgen, 4-5-75"
"This cabin is a pleasure and deserves all our respect. Randy Brook, Seattle, 1-18-76"
Jan. 31, 76 - 7 from Evergreen Area Council, Winter Camping Seminar
"We thank those who built this hut. To people used to tent-camping in winter, this is the Olympic Hilton! Dave Seago, 3-14-76"
"I hope NPS can see one more ski hut at Obstruction Point some day. Jerry Gilbert, 18 April 76"
"This hut is a stroke of genius." family of 5 from Victoria BC, 15 May 1976
"Our fourth time here, and we can't get over what a perfect spot it is! Many thanks. Janet Allison, 23 Dec. 1976"
"With intentions of climbing McCartney Peak, camp was pitched on the ridge about 1/2 mile south of Obstruction Point. Sunday morning snow blizzard bent poles and ripped tent loose from ridge and therefore retreat to Waterhole was decisive." John Menanno, 2-21-77
"We celebrated our anniversary here with steaks, red wine and cheesecake. Thanks to rangers Jack H. and Jack R. for making this trip possible. - Jerry + Laurette Gilbert, P.T., March 2, 1977"
"The spirit of Steve Holm haunts this place in the personage of the leg splints by the door. J. Wegmann, 5-3-77" [Steve Holm broke femur near Obstruction Point. John Wegmann and Dr. Sam Baker splinted it using ski poles, moved him to Waterhole. Ranger Jack Hughes called in Coast Guard helicopter evacuation from Waterhole.]
"The silence and sense of calm wholeness is the best part of the mountains - And being able to take shelter & get warm makes the beauty easier to appreciate. Ellen Lockhert, April 10, 1977"
"Thanks for this haven in the wilderness. Ian and Mary Brown, May 9 '77"
"How lucky we are - this fine hut, skiing in May, exquisite scenery! Joyce, May 1977"
"What a neat little place... an ideal refuge in a storm or out of one. And a woodstove!! Why not more of these in this state? Outstanding place!!... Hate to leave this 'Paradise in the Olympics'. Thanks to all involved in the hut program. Roger Baird, March 15, 1978"
"I have to say thanks to the Park for this cabin. What can we do for more? M.W., March 17, 1978"
"Driving snow and 20-30 knot winds have been sweeping ridge for 3 days now. How thankful i am for this shelter and the solitude i've enjoyed here! Jason Funky, 25 March 1978"
"For those of us who have spent many cold nights in a tent winter camping, we know what a luxury this place is. Nancy Waligory, Mercer Island, April 24-26, 1978"
"Tis a pleasure to open the hut for a new season. Hut is as clean as the papal soul. J. Wegmann, VIP BOC, 21 Nov 78"
"As others have written, we too are appreciative of the resources here. Val Jaffe, 12-2-78"
"Fantastic scenery, deep snow, this hut was a pleasant surprise. Jim Waters, Michigan, 12-24-78"
"Maura and Roger Oakes, Jerry age 8, Evan age 9, 26 Dec. '78"
"I had run across huts like this in B.C., but here in the U.S.? On gov't property? Tremendous idea. Thanks to all N.W. skiers who have had the common sense to keep this place righteous. Philip Brown, Indiana, 1-5-79"
Janet Kailin, Dave Skinner.
"The hut was truly a blessed haven to find. I hope it will always be as well cared for as it has cared for us. Ed + Robbie Hays, P.T. WA., Jan. 24, 1980"
"Thanks to all who have stayed, enjoyed and taken care -- so we can return 5 years later in this most beautifully quiet season of all - winter. John Thomson, Pysht, Feb. 16, 1980"
Replenish the rescue cache after Mike's accident - 2 March 1980
[Refers to the rescue of Ranger Mike Butler, who broke his ankle beyond Waterhole, was transported to Waterhole on a primitive sled made by lashing his skis together, then brought out on toboggan later that same night. Events related by Dr. Roger Oakes.]
"63 inches of new powder snow & we broke trail thru it! This place is such an oasis. M + D McKee, March 16, 1980"
"We thank the Park Service and all involved for keeping such wonderful opportunities. Paul Nishman, 3-30-80"
"Came in cold and hungry, left refreshed, revitalized & strengthened. It's just really neat to have this nook to retreat to after a push up the hill. Beal, Fraley & Fenton, Bremerton, 4-20-80"
"Heard St. Helens go but did not know what it was until arrived back @Hurricane. 5-17/18-80."
[Mount St. Helens explosion May 18, 1980 8:32 am PDT]
"A very welcome sight this fine hut was! Here's another vote for more oasis in the snow. Mark Whitmore, Marianne Krashy, 1 Jan. 1981"
"Search for downed airplane. Thurs Jan 29, 1981"
"Here for plane crash detail. S. Rolfe, W. Meisner, J. James, Rockwell, Thomas, Brothers, NPS 1-29-81"
[wreckage was located on Grand Ridge]
Jack & Mary Lange, Feb. 21, 1981.
"Yes, as so many others have remarked before, why aren't there more of these cabins? Bill Rotecki, Judith Ames, Feb 21, 1981"
"Wish there were more of these cabins, especially in the Cascades. C. McTeal, Mar. 16-18, 1981"
"This palace in paradise looked a touch more comfortable than a tent on the SNOW! Nirvana has been found. Thank you Park Service, more of these would be nice, this one is an example that they will work. Mark + Mary Lemon, Tacoma, April 25, 1981"
"Incidentally, Mark and Mary, this hut was built and paid for by local skiers not by NPS! Jack [Hughes], 10 May 1981"
"Best over nighter in the Olympics ever. Merry Christmas!! Greg & Jeanne Jacobs, 12-22-81"
"Hope everyone else can enjoy this place as much as we did! Angie Chichester, 12-28-81"
Bob & Bobbie Baldwin, Jan. 25, 1981.
"I think Frost said something to the effect
When to the heart of man
was it ever less than a treason
To go with drift of things
and yield with a will to reason
To bow and accept the end
of a love or of a season?
J. Kailin, April 23, 1982" [Janet Kailin retired from NPS in 2011. This is a most fitting tribute to Waterhole.]

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ten Year Plan part 2: A double standard.

The ostensive reasons for a Winter Use Plan are: 1) Native artifacts were found during trenching work done in 2010 by NPS as they replaced the waterline for the Lodge; and 2) The elimination of the sunrise tubing area.
This article in the Peninsula Daily News dated September 19, 2002 indicates that ONP was aware of native artifacts as early as 2002.  Therefore, any project at Hurricane Ridge since 2002, which includes the trenching project, rehabilitation of the road, repaving of the meadow trails, and moving the NWAC weather station all should require the same level of NEPA process as any ski area project.
The NWAC  project did involve a Environmental Assessment  which concluded "There have been several other archaeological surveys within a 5-mile radius of the project, none of which resulted in the documentation of significant resources.  Additional archaeological testing would be conducted prior to installation of the tower and trenching.  Archaeologists would monitor ground disturbing activities associated with the installation of the utility corridor and tower."

The road project was an EA, but did not analyze cultural resources or loss of the tubing area.
No public notice of the trenching and repaving projects are available.  The repaving of the trails added at least 1000 square feet of impermeable surface.  The older trails were paved with a six feet wide corrridor.  After repaving in fall 2011, the paved trail is now seven feet wide.
Old Trail six feet wide

New trail is seven feet wide
Also in 2002, the ski area made a proposal to ONP to make improvements within the existing ski area boundary.  This proposal was incorporated into the General Management Plan, which was approved in November 2008.

Using the native artifacts as a reason to restrict winter operations, when the ground is covered by feet of snow, but not summer activities is a stretch of logic.

The requirement to wait an additional 10 years for a winter use plan, in addition to the 10 years of GMP planning, has the effect of shutting the ski operation down.  No business or organization could afford to wait 20 years to upgrade equipment. 

Skiing has been a part of the Peninsula since before the creation of the park.  As the park was being formed, the intention was that the Park would enhance skiing, not take it away. Representative Walgren Both Rep Walgren and Franlkin Roosevelt would be turning in their graves with the way the Park is currently operated.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October updates

Check FreeHurricane Ridge on facebook at

Port Angeles Mayor Cherrie Kidd, City Manger Dan McKeen, and Greg Halberg participated in a conference call with National Park Service Comptroller Bruce Sheaffer in August.

Mr. Sheaffer acknowledged that the two year trial period was due to the intervention of Congressman Norm Dicks, who is a long time friend of the Park Service. He stated that our request would be easier if the Park Service were in a normal budget cycle, but because of both the uncertainty due to the elections and lack of budget resolutions in Congress, and an overall tight budget fulfilling our request would be difficult. We did not mention that the access was reduced during an expanding budget period.

We presented to him portions of the data on this blog, including how Hurricane Ridge compares to visitation in other parks, the NPS's visitor spending model, and a different way of looking at the visitation number than ONP presented. Mr. Sheaffer said the presentation was impressive and that he would examine our data at the regional level.

Since then we have heard nothing, Cherrie was scheduled for a conference call in September, but it was cancelled by Mr. Scheaffer at the last minute.

The first year of the program had a deadline of August 1 to hire and train the additional staff, and still the staff were not ready until after the New Year, so it does not look good for the upcoming winter.

Letters to all the politicians involved are still helpful. Contact info here

The Winter Sports Club, which operates the ski area at Hurricane Ridge, is in need of replacing its antiquated equipment. The idea was broached with the park as early as the 2000's. The response at that time was that the Park was conducting a General Management Plan (GMP), and the ski club should wait until that was complete before submitting any proposals. The GMP was completed in 2009, at which time the club went to the park with various alternatives for lift improvements. In 2011 the answer from the Park was that the Park needs to complete a Winter Use Plan for Hurricane Ridge before they can evaluate any ski area improvements proposal. During our first meeting Todd Suess said that the project could take two to three years to complete.

Cherrie Kidd suggested that the NPS should continue to fund seven day a week access until the Winter Use Plan was complete, assuming that seven day a week access would be one of the items on the winter use agenda. At that time Mr. Suess stated that it was more likely that the Winter Use Plan would not be completed for seven to ten years.

Meanwhile, at ONP, staff destroyed the popular Waterhole Cabin in September 2012, because it was "unsafe." This is a further direct hit to winter recreation in Olympic National Park. The ski club proposed in 2010 a plan to place removable winter only ski huts along the non-wilderness road corridor, which included taking over management of the Waterhole Hut if desired by ONP. There was no mention at that time that the Waterhole Hut was on the soon to be removed list. The proposal was rejected by ONP because it amounted to an expansion of the ski area. Which is a little bit of a silly point, because another group could have done the same plan just as well.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Backcountry Closed:

Short of a miracle intervention by someone higher up in the Park service, Hurricane Ridge will be closed Mondays through Thursdays for 2012-2013.

Perceptions versus Reality:

ONP Claim: Seven day winter access was a failure

Fact: The two years of the experiment resulted in an average increase of 10,578 more winter visitors over the previous two years, an increase of 35%.

ONP Claim: Winter use is an insignificant sub population of users compared to other spending priorities.

Fact: The winter use period accounts for 16% of the annual visits to Hurricane Ridge. Winter visits to Hurricane Ridge is about the same as annual backcountry overnights.

ONP Claim: Seven day winter access is too expensive

Fact: Other winter areas with similar conditions are able to keep roads clear 24/7 for less cost

Mount Baker in 2012

ONP Claim: Costs outweigh the benefits

Fact: Using NPS’s MP3 model visitor spending was more than costs. Hurricane Ridge is one the most efficient NPS winter areas in terms of dollar per visitor, more so when visitor spending is accounted for. In addition, there are benefits beyond visitor spending, such as quality of life, and recirculating local dollars.

ONP Claim: Almost all visitors are local.

Fact: License plates from 27 states were observed in 2012. Also, this is accounted for in the MP3 model.

ONP Claim: Park crews are as efficient as possible

Fact: Independent study finds methods to save tens of thousands of dollars using accepted practices in winter use areas.

ONP Claim: Hurricane Ridge is not viewed as a winter park

Fact: Hurricane Ridge attracts more winter visitors than Crater Lake, Lassen, Sequoia, as well as open segments of Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks.

ONP Claim: Hurricane Ridge requires 5 full time Rangers to staff safely

Fact: Lake Crescent is staffed with three Rangers for 273,330 winter visits with similar risks.

ONP Claim: Extreme weather causes road to close

Fact: Closed days averaged 5.3” of snow in 24 hours, 15 mph average winds for 24 hours, and a peak one hour average of 26 mph.

ONP Claim: Avalanche hazard on the road is high

Fact: Using the Simplified Avalanche Hazard Index which is based on the number and frequency of avalanches per traffic indicates low or very low threat to the road. A full assessment could be done by an expert, but has not been requested by ONP.

ONP Claim: Reinstalling gates at Third Peak and or the Slot is not feasible due to lack of turnaround

Fact: Turnaround at the Switchback trail head is 90’ in diameter; 75’ at the Slot. Existing turnaround at the lodge is 75’.

ONP Claim: Reinstalling gates at Third Peak and or the Slot is not feasible due to lack of parking.

Parking below the switchback trail head
Fact: At least 50 parking spaces are available at Third Peak, more are available on paved pull outs above Third Peak.

ONP Claim: Reinstalling gates at Third Peak and or the Slot is not feasible due to lack restrooms

Fact: Outhouse facilities are required for Washington State Winter Recreation Program SnoParks and installed and maintained at minimal cost.

ONP Claim: Downhill skiing is an activity that requires extensive development with resulting significant environmental impacts.

Fact: The downhill facilities at Hurricane Ridge disturb less than 1,000 square feet of land.