LAKE QUINAULT — Once described on an Olympic National Park visitor’s website as “the jewel of the lake,” the North Shore Resort now is covered in overgrown brush, berry bushes and ferns, chained from the public and posted with no-trespassing signs and security cameras.
With little public announcement, the National Park Service has begun the final steps to demolish the now-shuttered resort on the Lake Quinault’s North Shore Road, much to the dismay of local residents who say it is removing needed business, employment and lodging from the area.
The resort, also previously known as the Lake Quinault Resort, was purchased by The Conservation Fund for the park for $1.25 million in 2014, after the previous owner went bankrupt during the recession. The 4.35-acre grounds and lake-view lodging buildings have been closed for the past several years, and the Park Service recently confirmed it will be demolished, possibly within the next month.
“The park is planning to demolish the old North Shore Resort. Right now we’re just working through the compliance part of that,” said Penny Wagner, Olympic National Park spokeswoman.
Residents along the North Shore Road reported seeing a dumpster being moved onto the property recently and believe any efforts to stop the process is futile.
Jennifer Elders, who lives nearby, has been trying to find out more about plans to demolish the resort, but says she has been thwarted in the past. The planned demolition, she said, is an “outrageous act.”
“This is — or was — a gorgeous resort that many, many people over many, many years have enjoyed,” Elders said.
Tom Northup, who lives near the former resort, said it was a forgone conclusion that the resort would be returned to a natural area as part of the policy of Olympic National Park administration.
“That’s just what they do,” Northup said. “They’ll probably tear it down, and there is an elaborate new septic system in there. The people who last had it made some real neat improvements but they just mismanaged it.”
The park, he said, “typically comes in and plants spruce trees and lets it go back to nature.”
Locals and even others in the resort and lodging business support restoration of the resort because “they are just turning people away” with a shortage of options, Northup said.
“It’s a crying shame because I consider that one of the top three properties on the whole lake,” he said.
The resort description, still available online, noted it is “located inside the Olympic National Park on the sunny North Shore. … It is the perfect location to relax, unwind and rejuvenate. A place where ‘Peace and Quiet’ are featured.”
The resort featured covered outdoor barbecue and picnic areas, lakefront with canoes, satellite TV service and every room with lake and rainforest views. It was recommended by Olympic Peninsula’s Best Places publication, and featured on the television series Northwest Backroads.
Brian Winter, land manager for Olympic National Park, explained that the resort is part of a package of properties that are being demolished under a contract-bidding process and policy of returning property back to a more natural state when possible within park boundaries.
Winter said the abatement process has already begun at the resort, with a contractor removing any asbestos or potentially hazardous paints and chemicals stored in the buildings that remain. The next phase is the actual demolition contract, with bidding that closed at the end of August.
“We’re hoping that demolition will start either late September or October,” Winter said, noting the contract is for a number of other properties within the park’s boundaries. Some of those are around Lake Crescent as well, he said.
“How the contractor decides to do those and when is up to them,” he said.
So far, there is no plan to do anything specific with the property.
“When we buy properties, our goal is to return them to a natural state,” Winter said. “One of the reasons we were interested in it is that it’s going to provide the public some rare federal government access to the lake shore.”
Currently, the only other public access to the lake off North Shore Road in the park is at the July Creek area.
Exactly what form the public access takes, “we don’t have the planning done on that yet,” Winter noted. Funding will be a key component to what happens there in the future.
The plan now “is just to clean the site up, start restoration of it so we can have a clean slate” on how the property is incorporated into the park.
Elders said locals are suspicious: “The property has been cabled off ever since they took possession. Everything is secret. You can’t go in there. You don’t know anything.”
Many of the appliances and fixtures were auctioned off, and residents only learned of demolition plans from a park ranger in passing, according to Elders.
She described how the resort’s former owner had the facility taken over by the bank after doing major renovations before the recession. The park, Elders said, is on a “mission of acquiring properties as soon as they come up for sale” along the North Shore Road.
“Everything on the North Shore is just considered to be within Olympic National Park’s boundary, but you own your home and you own your land,” Elders said. That is, until the park or a trust that supports it has an opportunity to purchase the property outright.
Across the lake on the south side, the Lake Quinault Lodge sits on Olympic National Forest property and is a fully operating, highly popular lodge and resort.
Elders noted the Park Service also has purchased residential properties on the North Shore.
Elders said one property on the lake near her home was purchased for about $450,000, “and they do not do anything with it.” It’s also scheduled to be demolished in the contract that includes the former resort.