TROUT LAKE, Klickitat County — A former forest-ranger station popular with overnight visitors to Gifford Pinchot National Forest until it burned down last year is being replaced with a former bunk house and tool shed located 25 miles away.
The Willard Tool House, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940 and scheduled for demolition, will be moved to Peterson Prairie to replace the historic Peterson Prairie Guard station.
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest hopes to have the structure moved from Willard in eastern Skamania County to the Peterson Prairie location northwest of Trout Lake and available for rental by 2015.
Peterson Prairie Guard Station was built in 1926 to house U.S. Forest Service rangers. For many years, it was part of the recreation rental program and popular for overnight stays. The cabin was only 2.5 miles from Atkisson Sno-Park, which made it accessible to skiers and snowshoers during the winter. The cabin rented for $50 a night.
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In September, while the huge Cascade Creek forest fire raged on the south slope of Mount Adams, the Peterson Prairie Guard Station burned down one night in an unrelated fire. The guard station was many miles away from the Cascade Creek fire.
“When we heard about Peterson Prairie Guard Station burning down that morning we couldn’t really believe it with everything else we had going on,” said David Wickwire, Mount Adams District recreation program manager. “We went right out to see, and I don’t have to tell most who loved this place about the empty sinking feeling when I first saw it.”
The guard station was a total loss with only the chimney remaining.
“We received an outpouring of interest from local communities and numerous partners and volunteers expressing willingness to help up rebuild a cabin at the site,” said Nancy Ryke, Mount Adams District ranger.
Willard is a tiny community along the upper Little White Salmon River on the southern edge of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It once was its own ranger district.
Willard Tool House was a tool shed and bunk house, said Rick McClure, heritage and tribal programs officer for the Gifford Pinchot.
“It has been sitting empty for 12 years, but it’s in good shape structurally,” McClure said.
The tool house is larger than Peterson Prairie Guard Station.
It has one large room on the ground floor that can be framed to make two rooms. Upstairs also is one large room that can be divided into two.
McClure said the tool house could be configured to have two private bedrooms upstairs and a living room and kitchen downstairs. The ground floor can be wheelchair-accessible.
Six to eight persons could stay in the tool house once it is refinished, he said.
The Forest Service has the money to move the tool house to Peterson Prairie. McClure said he envisions that happening this year or 2014.
Volunteers in the agency’s Passport in Time program will be enlisted to help renovate and refurbish the tool house.
McClure said some of the work might be done before the tool house leaves Willard because there is electricity available there but not at Peterson Prairie.
The Mount Adams Institute is trying to raise $75,000 to finance the tool house restoration. The nonprofit has about one-third of the money secured.