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Lodges and Huts

Bradley Hut Relocation Project Report

(Submitted to REI November 9, 1998)

 

Project Coordinator: Dick Simpson
Building Supervisor: Doug Porter
Engineer: Steve Twomey
Architect: Ron Driller
Operations Manager: Eliot Howard

 

Sierra Club
85 Second St -- 2nd Floor
San Francisco
CA 94105-3441

 

I. Introduction

A. Background

Since the mid-1950's the Sierra Club has owned and operated four backcountry cabins in the Lake Tahoe area for use of its members and the general public (Figure 1). In 1995 the US Forest Service asked the Club to remove Bradley Hut from the Granite Chief Wilderness, which was created by an act of Congress in 1984. Club volunteers dismantled the 2-1/2 story A-frame and cleared the site in 1996-7.

With USFS approval, and with the generous support of REI, we have completed a new two-story hut 4 miles away in Tahoe National Forest. The floor and foundation were excavated and poured in 1997; the building itself (Figure 2) and detached outhouse were constructed in 1998. The hut is 5 miles and 1500' gently up from the nearest trailhead and 4 miles from the Club's Benson Hut (Figure 1), opening the possibility of 3-day 2-night trips for more advanced backcountry skiers and snowshoers.

B. Goals and Major Objectives

The Bradley Hut Relocation Project exemplifies the Sierra Club's unique blend of conservation activism with outings to wild places. It demonstrates that following principles of wilderness preservation by relocating an established hut out of designated Wilderness can be compatible with vigorous backcountry recreation.

Our construction objective has been to complete the new hut, the detached outhouse, and interpretive/visitor materials so that the facility can be open for visitors during the 1998-99 winter season. Our usage objective is to have the hut fully booked on weekends by its second season of operation; this would represent a fourfold increase over the usage recorded at the original hut.

 

II. Activities and Accomplishments

· Successfully recruited 98 volunteers to assist with the construction of the hut in 1998.

· Built good will and support in the community by asking local businesses to post fliers about the construction. Several Truckee residents who saw the fliers dropped in to see about our progress; in a few cases, they even joined in the work! We view this interest as a positive indication of community support. The long-term viability of the Sierra Club huts in the Tahoe/Donner region depends on strong community support, as the best protection against damage from vandalism. We have sought to maintain local support by reminding business owners and others with whom we interact that the huts are available to members of the local community whether they are members of the Club or not.

· Secured positive local press coverage. In August, the weekly Tahoe World (Figure 3) ran a photo announcing to subscribers in Tahoe City and nearby areas that construction had begun.

· Held a week-long work party at the end of August to kick off the construction. Thirty volunteers were on hand to erect the hut's walls, roof, and door. The beams from the original Bradley Hut were used as roof supports.

· Completed construction of the two-story new Bradley Hut, including a freestanding outhouse with vault toilet. Volunteers participated in seven weekend work parties in the months of September and October. Since the Forest Service allowed access in August, September, and October only, speed was imperative to readying the hut for use this winter. This year's late spring and heavy winter snows prevented the Forest Service from conducting the required wildlife survey until July. Volunteers responded with a high level of commitment to completing construction on schedule, even participating in three work parties held in inclement weather.

Over 300 person-days were contributed by volunteers during construction (Figure 4). Expenditures are as shown in Appendix A.

 

III. Lessons Learned and Problems Encountered

· The new Bradley Hut is the first publicly available facility of its type to be constructed in 40 years. Its successful construction confirmed the existence of a diverse, skilled, committed volunteer base for hut construction.

· For future construction projects, it would be desirable to designate a local volunteer to act as a contact person for vendors. With project personnel out of the area except on weekends, it was difficult to schedule delivery of supplies.

· Because of the limited time frame for construction and the fact that construction did not begin until the last week in August, the project was forced to proceed at a fast pace. This created a few, but not insurmountable problems.

· Frequent communication with volunteers using a number of channels was important in maintaining interest in the Project. Articles in Sierra Club newsletters in California and Nevada brought attention to the Project and provided information about donations and volunteering. Project leaders followed up initial inquiries by mailing information about the project's status. After work parties, we sent follow-up thank-you notes -- in some cases prompting return visits.

· A double-sided brochure containing background and status information, a sketch of the hut appearance, a map, a floor plan, requests for financial and labor contributions, and a brief introduction to the Bradley family was produced in March. It was instrumental in gaining early donations from members and was handed out for 6 months whenever inquiries were received.

· Maintaining good relationships with the Forest Service and the Placer County Building Department staff was essential to the success of this project. The good working relationships built by the staff at the Sierra Club's Clair Tappan Lodge and maintained by this Project's personnel meant that staff at both agencies were extremely supportive, providing useful suggestions as well as recognizing the unusual circumstances (e.g., our weekend-only work schedule) of the Project.

· Encouraging volunteers to bring their own tools allowed them to work with familiar instruments and saved the time that Project personnel would have spent coordinating the tool supply. Except for large items (generators, wall jacks, ladders, etc.) which we have either obtained from Clair Tappaan Lodge or rented in Truckee, we have supplied all small tools from the inventory brought by volunteers.

· Forest Service concerns at the beginning of the Project included potential damage to a meadow directly across the road from our site. By declaring camping (setting up tents and sleeping bags) to be permitted only on our side of the road, we made sure that our project had negligible impact on the habitat needed by the Truckee-Loyalton deer herd.

 

V. Conclusions

A. How has activity advanced goal?

With successful construction of the New Bradley Hut and the detached outhouse we have met the two major elements of our construction goal. With agreement of USFS, completion of the visitor/interpretive element has been deferred to 1999.

Reservation requests for use of the new hut have been brisk. Project Coordinator Simpson and Building Supervisor Porter have, by themselves turned in requests for over 50 visitor-nights in 1998-99; other requests bring the total to about 90 -- already 50 percent above the usage level in a typical season at the old hut. We expect the cabin to be well-used during 1998-99 and believe our goal of full bookings on weekends by 1999-2000 is within reach.

B. Looking Forward

From November 1998 to July 1999, the Sierra Club will evaluate the success of this project. During this time we will collect reports from hut users and make inspections ourselves to determine which aspects of the hut need further attention. For example, despite protective sealing and painting, the front door started to warp after a weekend of rain and snow; it may be that we will have to replace the commercially supplied door (and frame) with a custom-made door more suitable for a backcountry cabin. We will also evaluate possible upgrades, such as adding insulation or solar electric lighting.

During our construction "window" in 1999, when physical work on the cabin is allowed by the Forest Service, we will make repairs of things that did not survive or were incorrectly installed; and we will make those upgrades which are both desirable and within the remaining budget.

C. Replication

As we near completion of the new hut, questions have arisen as to whether we might build additional huts. In our grant application to REI , we said that a fully subscribed new hut (including significant midweek use) would prompt us to look at adding more new huts. So far, volunteers have been almost unanimously supportive, but funding and location would both require further investigation. The Pole Creek site for New Bradley Hut was relatively easy, since the Forest Service recommended it and the area is off limits to motor vehicles in winter. Given environmental restrictions on building within the Lake Tahoe Basin , the obvious restrictions in Granite Chief Wilderness, a checkerboard ownership pattern on land elsewhere in Tahoe National Forest, and a relatively high degree of development within the TNF boundaries already, good locations are limited. Barker Pass, a few miles north of Ludlow Hut, is one possibility. Marcus Libkind of Nordic Voice has been looking into possible sites south of US50. So there are opportunities to be investigated further.

The Sierra Club thanks REI on behalf of all the future users of the new Bradley Hut for the generous support that made its construction possible.

 

VI. Appendix A -- Expense Breakdown

Left column shows budget for construction as submitted with the grant proposal to REI. Right column shows expenses as of early November; since no significant expenses are expected after November, the right column represents the actual cost of the hut. See notes below for details.

Budget / Actual

1. Materials.........................$22767 / $24355

2. Tool and Equipment Rental...........2000 / 1897

3. Interior............................2000 / 2599

4. Miscellaneous and Contingencies.....3000 / 2266

5. Total............................29767 / 31117

 

Notes:

1. Budget was based on estimate by professional contractor and included lumber, doors, windows, roofing, cabinets and countertop, and holding tank and foundation for outhouse. Actual includes same except that cabinets and countertop have not been purchased or installed.

2. Budget included rental of generator, cement mixer, and other specialty tools. Actual included wall jacks, chain saws, pickup truck, and ladders. Generator was loaned from Sierra Club's Clair Tappaan Lodge; concrete was provided by commercial supplier.

3. Budget included wood stove, stove pipe, tables, etc. Actual was same.

4. Budget included permit fees, wildlife survey, delivery charges, small hardware items, and repairs/mistakes. There were no permit fees and the survey charge was waived.

5. Contributions from individuals continued to come in after the REI proposal was submitted. The working budget during the construction period was raised to $32000. This allowed purchase of a better toilet holding tank, acquisition of professional concrete services, and rental of a pickup truck for on-site use.

 

VII . Figures

1. Map

The original Bradley Hut was built in Five Lakes Basin near Squaw Valley (lower center) during the summer of 1957, funded partly by family as a memorial to Josephine Bradley. Construction was by friends and relatives and by volunteers from the Sierra Club, which operated the hut until 1996. It was removed in 1996-97 to restore Five Lakes Basin to its original character, following inclusion of the area in Granite Chief Wilderness, established in 1984. The New Bradley Hut has been constructed in the upper part of the Pole Creek drainage about 4 miles from the original site. Four miles by trail from the Club's Benson Hut, the new hut will offer experienced backcountry skiers a two-cabin loop trip with several miles along the Sierra Crest. Beginners will be able to reach the new hut by following a gently graded road 5 miles from its junction with Hwy 89.

2. Hut Floor Plan

The loft is directly over the central part of the ground floor. Storage areas under the sloping roof are used for firewood (and construction materials carried over to summer 1999).

3. Tahoe World Photo

This photo appeared after the week-long work party in late August. The picture was taken by Sue Graf, a long-time supporter of the project and part-time resident of Alpine Meadows.

4. Collage of Hut and People Photos

Upper left: Andrew Tomlinson (Palo Alto) cuts plywood roofing. Upper right: Harvey Ceaser (left; Walnut Creek) and Peter Graf (Nevada City) relax while raising a section of the front wall. Lower left: Joe Svitek (Redwood City) inspects framing. Lower right: Ann Reisenauer (left; Palo Alto) and Marj Ottenberg (Saratoga) cut siding for exterior walls. Peter Graf helped build the original Bradley Hut in Five Lakes Basin during Summer 1957. Marj Ottenberg has been a leader of the Loma Prieta Chapter Snow Camping Seminar for more than ten years. Photos by Dick Simpson.


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