Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that Glacier National Park has begun urgently needed stabilization work at the Sperry Chalet dormitory building to prepare for winter. This is a critical first step in preserving the original structure and rebuilding the historic building.
On August 31, the building burned when the Sprague Fire significantly expanded and surrounded the Sperry complex. Earlier this week, Secretary Zinke ordered an independent investigation into the disaster and expedited the inspection of the remaining structure.
"Rebuilding Sperry is one of my top priorities, today's announcement is the first step in that process," said Secretary Zinke. "I'm grateful to the Conservancy and the Park for their quick work to preserve and rebuild Sperry."
While most of the buildings in the Sperry Chalet complex including the Dining Room and a trails and utility cabin weathered the extreme fire behavior with sprinkler systems, fire resistant wrap, and wildland firefighters defending the exteriors of the buildings, the dormitory building suffered extensive damage.
The purpose of the stabilization work is to protect the walls and chimneys from excessive snow and weather damage throughout the winter. Next spring and summer, the park will conduct additional structural analysis and a review of the site area to help inform decisions about the future of the chalet complex.
The stabilization recommendations come from DCI + BCE Engineers out of Missoula, and were paid for by the Glacier National Park Conservancy. The engineering firm had previously done work at the chalet when it was heavily damaged in a 2011 avalanche.
“The Glacier Conservancy was able to get an engineering crew up there with our staff practically the day after we asked for help,” said Superintendent Jeff Mow. “With winter approaching, we could never have moved fast enough without the support of our private philanthropic partner to get this critical work done.”
Donations to the Glacier National Park Conservancy have funded the work of the engineering firm and will fund initial stabilization materials and needed labor this fall.
This is not the first time that the Glacier National Park Conservancy has stepped forward to provide immediate assistance for urgent park needs. In 2013, it supported expanded plowing efforts to open the Going-to-the-Sun Road after heavy winter snow. This year, it supported a significantly enhanced aquatic invasive species inspection program after zebra and quagga mussels were detected in the State of Montana last fall.
“As the park grapples with an array of challenges from serving an ever increasing number of visitors to wildfire to deferred maintenance, we are deeply thankful for our public-private partnership with the Glacier National Park Conservancy and the support of our local and worldwide Glacier community for whom the park is a cherished second home,” said Superintendent Mow.