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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Murray earmarks $80M to rebuild Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge

A firefighter douses the smoldering Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge at Olympic National Park after a fire earlier this year destroyed the structure.  (Photo courtesy of Clallam County Fire District 2)
By Gregory Scruggs Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Nearly six months after the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge burned down, the beloved destination in Olympic National Park will benefit from a bundle of federal funds.

A line item in the White House’s $56 billion domestic supplemental budget request released Wednesday allocates $80 million to rebuild the lodge and construct a temporary visitor facility in the interim.

The funding was a priority for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wa.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“When I first heard about this devastating fire, I was aghast. Hurricane Ridge is a place I had taken my family to,” Murray said Thursday. “When it burned down, it was a tragic feeling that we had lost this amazing place.”

Hurricane Ridge hosts 300,000 visitors annually for views of glacier-capped Mount Olympus from the only paved road to the tree line in Olympic National Park.

The outdoor recreation hub had closed in March for an $11 million renovation project on the 1950s-era lodge.

Weeks later, a fire burned the structure to the ground. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The site remained closed until late June, when it reopened with limited capacity; the site closed again this month so the lodge’s remains could be demolished, with officials projecting the area would reopen “by early December.”

In August, Murray traveled to Hurricane Ridge, surveyed the lodge’s charred remains and met with National Park Service staff, who described their plans for the site, including funding needs.

“I’ve made it very clear to all the agencies and the administration that this is a priority,” Murray said.

The Biden administration’s request includes big-ticket items like child care and wildland firefighter pay, with relatively few pet projects for individual senators. Supplemental budgets are a tool designed for urgent crises, not wish-list items. Murray secured the funding as part of $375 million for federal facilities damaged in disasters.

The budget request is still subject to congressional approval and the final outcome will almost certainly differ from the White House’s proposal, but given Murray’s role as appropriations chair, she is well positioned to ensure the rebuilding project is fully funded heading into the next fiscal year.

Representatives from Olympic National Park and the National Park Service did not provide a timeline for lodge reconstruction or installation of interim facilities.

“We continue to work hard to provide access to ensure that visitors to Olympic National Park are able to experience the breathtaking views from Hurricane Ridge, have meaningful interactions with park personnel and recreate in a truly special place,” park spokesperson Molly Pittman said.

The news was received with elation from those who live, play and work on the Olympic Peninsula.

“These things don’t happen quickly, so to have that commitment of funds – and the fact that it includes funding for the interim period – is enormous,” said Marsha Massey, executive director for the Olympic Peninsula Visitor Bureau, from the sidelines of the Washington Responsible Outdoor Travel Summit.

“Right now we are just trying to cobble things together. We can’t even talk about next summer yet because we’re just talking about can we get it open for winter.

“It will be a real boost mentally to the locals.”