Volunteers labor to replace burned snow park shelter

Efforts needed for both construction, fundraising




Volunteers have joined forces to raise money and in-kind donations to rebuild a popular Mount St. Helens-area warming shelter after a fire destroyed it April 9.

The Marble Mountain Sno-Park Shelter in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest had served as a place for winter outdoorspeople to warm up after playing in the snow, have a meal and meet with friends and family for the past 20 years.

“The folks who go up there every year were pretty attached to it and were pretty disappointed when they heard it burned down,” said Bill Uyesugi, recreation and facilities manager at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

An investigation by Forest Service law enforcement into the cause of the blaze was inconclusive, Uyesugi said.

Volunteers hope to collect about $130,000, plus in-kind donations of labor and materials, to rebuild the shelter by November.

The U.S. Forest Service is self-insured, so it has to accept any losses due to fire, said Chris Strebig, forest spokesman.

The shelter was originally funded and built by volunteers as a result of a partnership between snow park users and the Forest Service. Some of the same groups will help reconstruct it, including the snowmobile club Mount St. Helens Trac Riders, said Randy Peterson, forest recreation technician.

The Forest Service will provide $10,000 in seed money, as well as logs, to kick off the donations, Uyesugi said.

“The Trac Riders will coordinate the volunteers and labor and donate the building to the Forest Service once it’s done,” Uyesugi said.

The Trac Riders have already cleaned up debris from the fire and donated $2,000 toward the project, said Battle Ground resident Gary Enger, the club’s president.

In the early 1980s, volunteers from Trac Riders lent construction equipment and helped build the 1,500-square-foot log-cabin shelter, Enger said. He said the club still has many members who work in the construction industry and could help in a similar way for the reconstruction.

The Mount St. Helens Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to public education about the monument, will help recruit other volunteers and collect donations, largely through its website, said institute executive director Jeanne Bennett.

“It’s kind of the end of the season for snowmobiling and that kind of stuff, but obviously people would like to get the shelter back in place by next year because it’s the busiest snow park we have,” Strebig said. “On weekends, the parking lot is full.”

The shelter had a large wood stove, a picnic table, and a dirt and cement floor, Strebig said. It was a magnet for people out for a day of snowshoeing, climbing, skiing, snowmobiling, ATV driving and other winter sports on Mount St. Helens. About 300 to 400 people stopped in at the shelter on weekends, Peterson said, and the parking lot was usually full. The snow park provided access to the lahar area, as well as to trails up the mountain.

“It was a special place to warm up and have social activities with friends,” said Enger. “We’d have potlucks in there. Every year, we had a Christmas party there that was open to anyone who was there.”

Winter climbers often started up the mountain from the shelter, as it was the highest vehicle-accessible point on the east flank during deep snow, Strebig said. There’s another parking area and restroom at Climbers’ Bivouac higher up, but that area is expected to be covered by snow until early July, he said.

Donations for the shelter’s reconstruction can be made at http://bit.ly/mH3u3i. Bennett said 100 percent of donations will go directly to the shelter reconstruction project.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551, paris.achen@columbian.com, Twitter.com/Col_Trends, facebook.com/pages/Paris-Achen/179632762092799