Forest Service seeks proposals for Mount St. Helens visitor center site
VANCOUVER, Wash. (June 3, 2019) — What would you do with 24,600 square feet and a view of one of America’s most powerful and dynamic landscapes?
Gifford Pinchot National Forest recently released a “Request for Expressions of Interest” from individuals, organizations and companies with a vision for the facility currently in use as the Coldwater Visitor Center on Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
The center was built in 1993, and is located seven miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory, the primary Forest Service visitor center at Mount St. Helens, and is located approximately 45 miles from Interstate 5.
The building boasts spacious atriums with peaked roofs and skylights that both reflect and capture the mountain peaks beyond, a large commercial kitchen, small theater, exhibit areas, dining terrace, and gift shop among its amenities, and is currently used to host educational programming offered by the Mount St. Helens Institute.
But the building also costs $23,000 per year to operate, and $110,000 per year in maintenance expenses, and an estimated $3.3. million is needed to catch up on deferred maintenance needs.
The request, or RFEI, is part of the forest and the monument’s sustainable recreation initiative, an effort to build a high-quality, sustainable recreation program.
Throughout the Forest Service, officials are evaluating existing facilities and infrastructure and re-organizing to ensure forests are managing a sustainable number of sites to a high standard, rather than juggling a large number of sites in poor condition that do not meet safety or sanitation standards.
The agency’s goal is to explore creative options to develop community-based solutions for future management of some facilities, and to identify infrastructure that is no longer needed by the agency or the community.
Forest officials said at this stage, they are not looking for a finished proposal – but they are interested in exploring possible options for the site with entities interested in partnering with the forest to make use of the site.
Proposals could include public, non-profit, private or commercial uses in the existing facility, or demolishing the current structure and building something completely new on the site, Heather Ibsen, a forest spokesperson, said.
Coldwater Visitor Center overlooks Mount St. Helens and is located within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument area. The center serves thousands of visitors to the monument every year, hosts programming for the Mount St. Helens Institute.
Built in 1993, the structure is located 7 miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory, the primary Forest Service visitor center at Mount St. Helens, and 45 miles from Interstate 5.
You can read more about the sustainable restoration initiative and the Coldwater Visitor Center at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/recreation/?cid=fseprd629684.
Anyone interested in proposing a new use for the space should submit:
- A cover letter expressing your interest which includes your name, company or organization, and contact information (phone, address, email address).
- An explanation of your concept, including the type of use proposed, and how this use supports the purpose and mission of the Monument and the Forest Service. This section should also include a description of planned improvements and any additional information or considerations relevant to your concept or experience.
- Business and financial considerations: Address the nature or any partnerships proposed, including the roles and responsibilities of each entity in the proposed use. Describe the cost of planned improvements and your funding source. (Note: If a permit is issued, a fee will likely be charged. The fee can be for items such as covering the cost of administering the permit, functioning in lieu of rent, or funding a share of building maintenance. Proposals should not be contingent upon the availability of Forest Service funds).
Proposals are due no later than July 31, 2019. The Forest Service will host a site visit June 25, 2019 for interested parties who would like to tour the entire Coldwater Visitor Center facility. To RSVP, email email@example.com by June 18, 2019.
To submit your concept, provide both a paper copy and an electronic copy on USB flash drive (jump drive). Submissions should be mailed or hand-delivered to: Mount St. Helens NVM (attn: RFEI); 42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd., Amboy WA 98601.
The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe. Created by Congress after the 1980 eruption that radically transformed the landscape, the Monument protects the scientific, geologic, and ecological resources surrounding the volcano. Nearly 40 years later, scientists still continue to study this area to learn more about volcanic activity and how landscapes recover from disaster.
For more information and a guide to submitting a proposal in response to the RFEI, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/recreation/?cid=fseprd629684.
For more photos of the center, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release).