By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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A four-foot section of the historic wooden structure in the heart of Olympic National Park was undercut by the East Fork of the Quinault River last winter.
Monroe, owner of Carlsborg-based Monroe House Moving, hiked to the remote cabin last week to devise a plan to lift the building onto a temporary track and move it 592 feet to a patch of high ground within a week.
“My plan is set,” he said.
“All I need is a helicopter.”
Olympic National Park officials say it’s not that simple.
The 2 ˝ story, 84-year-old chalet is situated within the Olympic Wilderness, a federally-protected area where the use of mechanized equipment is frowned upon.
Park spokeswoman Barb Maynes said there are several other factors at play, not the least of which is money.
“Right now, the park does not have the funding available to take action, not without cutting programs and services this coming summer,” Maynes said.
“It’s just really a tough situation.”
With volunteer support from the Back County Horsemen of Washington and others interested in preserving the chalet, Monroe estimates that he could move the building for $40,000, not including a helicopter for moving supplies.
The Enchanted Valley Chalet is about 15 miles from the Graves Creek trailhead on the southwest side of the park. It sits in a floodplain where the river meanders from one side of the valley to the other.
“There simply is not a place in the valley that is going to be out of harm’s way in the long term,” Maynes said.
Monroe would not specify what equipment he would need to move the chalet.
“I don’t want to give them any more excuses,” he said.
Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum has said it would cost somewhere between $1.5 and 2 million to deconstruct the chalet and rebuild it someplace else.
“From a preservation standpoint, you’d want to avoid dismantling buildings if possible, if feasible,” said Chris Moore, executive director of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.
Monroe said he could move the structure in one piece on train trestle-style blocks being laid ahead of a 30-foot roll beam track, and leave no trace of the operation.
“You’d never know we were there,” he said.
Park officials say Monroe’s proposal would cost a lot more than $40,000, although Maynes would not provide the official estimate for moving the chalet away from the river’s edge.
“The bottom line is there are some key elements of the work that would need to be done that are not included in Mr. Monroe’s estimate, primarily helicopter time, but there are other factors as well,” Maynes said.
Monroe said private money likely would be available.
Maynes said the park is gathering the information to “determine if there is an alternative that is technically feasible and economically feasible.”
“We don’t have a time line,” she added.
Park crews have already removed equipment, supplies, hazardous materials and windows from the chalet to protect downstream resources while preserving elements of its historic significance.
Samples of wood taken from the chalet are being tested for preservatives that could be harmful to threatened bull trout and other species in the river downstream,
“We’re very concerned about debris entering the Quinault River,” Maynes said.
A series of winter storms moved the main channel by at least 15 feet last winter. The river has since receded to normal levels, leaving the chalet high and dry.
“It’s very stable,” Monroe said.
“It’s not in danger of going into the river.”
Built in 1930 before the establishment of Olympic National Park, the Enchanted Valley Chalet was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
The photogenic cabin has served as a lodge for hikers and horseback riders, and is used as a backcountry ranger station and emergency shelter.
Members of the Back Country Horsemen of Washington “stand ready to assist with any preservation efforts — within our capabilities — required to preserve the chalet,” President Trygve Culp said in a statement from the 33-chapter organization.
“Over the past 35 years Back Country Horsemen from local chapters on and around the Olympic Peninsula have volunteered literally thousands of hours helping to restore and maintain the chalet as well as keeping trail access to the chalet open for all hikers and equestrians alike to use and safely enjoy,” Culp said.
“It is our sincere hope that the staff and leadership of the Olympic National Park will favorably consider action necessary to save the chalet at this time.”
Moore said the Enchanted Valley Chalet has been nominated for inclusion on the trust’s Most Endangered Historic Properties List, joining the 1931 art deco former Port Angeles fire hall as a nominee.
The official list will be announced in May.
“Ideally, the chalet will be able to remain in the Enchanted Valley,” Moore said in a Thursday interview.
“The significance of the chalet is tied very directly to its location. If the chalet is no longer in the Enchanted Valley, you lose some degree of significance.”
He added: “That would be a disappointing thing.”
Maynes said the park is looking for an “appropriate solution” that complies with the Wilderness Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.
The Olympic Wilderness was designated in 1988.
“There is nothing in the Wilderness Act that specifically or explicitly prevents federal agencies from being good stewards of historic properties,” Moore said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.