Monday, August 20, 2012

Mt. Rainier National Park Considers Improvements to Camp Muir

Post by Andre, Public Lands Policy Intern

Camp Muir, looking west from the helipad. The historic Guide Shelter is on the right;
the Client Shelter is on the left.

The National Park Service (“NPS”) has proposed several site rehabilitation plans at the Camp Muir Historic District, located in Mount Rainier National Park.

Camp Muir is the primary base camp for west-side ascents to the summit of Mount Rainier and is a common destination for day hikers. Up to 500 climbers and hikers visit Camp Muir per day during peak use months. The popularity of Camp Muir as a climbing base camp and destination day hike strains existing toilet and overnight facilities, and has contributed to erosion of the pumice soils on the ridge. Extreme environmental conditions also contribute to the deterioration of structures and challenge Park managers in their efforts to maintain the site and its public facilities.
Structures at Camp Muir like the “big black box” sleeping shelter would be modified, replaced or removed, and the purposes of structures would be optimized to improve visitor and employee safety while protecting natural resources, adjacent Wilderness, and the National Historic Landmark District. The NPS has prepared an Environmental Assessment to analyze four potential rehabilitation plan Alternatives. Alternative 1 (No Action), which would result in no change in the facilities available at Camp Muir; Alternative 2, representing minimum development, in which structures that are not historic would be removed; Alternative 3 (preferred), in which non-historic structures would be replaced with new structures compatible with the Historic District near their current locations; and Alternative 4, which would also replace non-historic structures with new structures, but with a modified spatial arrangement.  

Alternative 3 is the NPS preferred course of action. The preferred plan calls for the replacement of non-historic shelters with new structures that are more compatible with existing Historic District structures and landscape.  The new shelters would be designed to consider enclosures for utilities to minimize visual impact to the Historic District, provide increased safety to users (i.e. a new cooking area partitioned within the building to provide separation between sleeping and cooking functions), and the replacement of existing toilets. Utilities and support infrastructure would be similar to present conditions, but new technology may be used to decrease the size of equipment and reduce energy consumption. 


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