Shutdown Could Delay Some Projects in Glacier Park

Officials hopeful prolonged government shutdown will not impact Sperry Chalet construction

By Justin Franz
The West Glacier entrance station on Jan. 16, 2019. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

The month-long shutdown of the federal government could impact a number of projects in Glacier National Park this year. 

Winter is often slow in Glacier Park, so it has taken some time for the impacts of the government shutdown to be felt. But Marc Ducharme, Xanterra Parks and Resorts Glacier Park manager, said this is also the time of year where the concessioner works with the National Park Service to approve certain maintenance projects. Xanterra is tasked with maintaining the historic structures within Glacier, but before any major work can move forward the National Park Service has to sign off on it. That oversight includes making sure the projects will not negatively impact the environment or alter the historic nature of the park’s structures.

Ducharme also said this is an important time of year for administrative work because the window to complete projects on Glacier’s historic buildings is small: the snow often remains until late spring, limiting access for contractors. And when it melts, it isn’t long before tourists begin to descend on the park. 

Because of the government shutdown, Ducharme said some projects scheduled for spring would now have to be pushed back to autumn after the busy summer season. Among the projects Xanterra hoped to complete this spring were upgrades to the plumbing at Many Glacier. 

“We’re basically a month behind on all of our compliance paperwork,” he said.

The Xanterra manager was quick to note that the projects were mostly preventative maintenance and delays should not negatively impact guests this summer. 

So far, the biggest ongoing project in Glacier Park — the rebuilding of the Sperry Chalet, which was destroyed in a wildfire in 2017 — is on schedule. Glacier National Park Conservancy Executive Director Doug Mitchell said he is optimistic the shutdown will not prevent the chalet from being finished this year because much of the planning on the project is already completed. The Conservancy is heavily involved in the Sperry project.

While other national parks have been dealing with vandalism and overflowing toilets and trash cans, Glacier Park has mostly escaped unscathed thus far. Mitchell said the Conservancy is ready to step up and help provide some basic services should the need arise. Conservancy staff is already providing some guest services at the West Glacier train station where the group maintains a bookshop. The Apgar Visitor Center has been closed due to the shutdown.  

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