Rehabilitation of the historic White Grass Dude Ranch located within Grand Teton National Park is complete after 11 years of meticulous preservation work. The former dude ranch has been transformed into the home and primary training center of the National Park Service’s Western Center for Historic Preservation. Earlier this fall a rope cutting ceremony was held for the ranch. Since that time, staff have completed the finishing touches, and the ranch has formally transitioned from a construction site to a full-fledged training center.
The National Park Service partnered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2005 to rehabilitate White Grass. Rehabilitation work included repair of failed foundations, roofs, windows and doors; replacement of rotten logs; and upgrades to aging utility systems. The jointly-funded project cost approximately $3 million.
The Western Center for Historic Preservation is the only training center devoted to the preservation of traditionally-built architecture in the western United States, Alaska, and the Pacific Islands. While the Western Center is commonly associated with log structures, its staff also conducts remote trainings on the preservation of adobe and mine shack type buildings. “The completion of White Grass means that we can shift our attention to training the staff needed to tackle deferred maintenance projects in the 159 parks we serve.” said Center Director Katherine Wonson.
Western Center trainings are led by subject-matter experts from both within and outside the National Park Service. They are open to the general public and are provided at no charge to participants. Fourteen of the 20 trainings conducted in 2016 were hosted at other parks. While remote trainings will continue, completion of the ranch’s rehabilitation is beneficial as more workshops can be hosted at the historic ranch.
Wonson said, “We’ve conducted trainings in other parks, and while they meet our training objectives, they ultimately don’t provide the same transformative experience as trainings at White Grass. Trainings at White Grass have the power to completely change the course of people’s careers, which it has already done for a number of National Park Service staff. They come and it’s an immersive experience.” Trainings were first hosted at White Grass in 2014.
The rehabilitation also increases the center’s ability to host trainings that are contained entirely at White Grass, and are therefore more transformative for participants. The sleeping cabins have been rehabilitated to provide overnight accommodations to trainees and the Main, Hammond, and Bath House cabins serve as communal space for eating, teaching, and shop work.
Life-changing experiences are nothing new to White Grass. As the third oldest dude ranch in Jackson Hole, White Grass built a tight-knit community of devotees. “White Grassers,” as they have come to be known, often returned to the ranch year after year from their homes in other parts of the country. The place stuck with them and, for many, was their primary connection to nature and the western way of life. The rope cutting event offered many of those individuals an opportunity to reconnect with the ranch, which has been managed by the National Park Service since 1985, when the Galey family’s life estate expired.