Donner Summit visitor center shutting doors after Labor Day |

Donner Summit visitor center shutting doors after Labor Day

Tahoe National Forest / Courtesy photo A photo taken in the early 1900s shows the Big Bend Ranger Station, which would later turn into the site of the Big Bend visitor center on Donner Summit.

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Last seasonand#8217;s crushing winter snowpack has contributed to the imminent end of the well-loved visitorand#8217;s center on Donner Summit.

The U.S. Forest Service will close its Donner Summit-area visitor center, Big Bend, on Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 5), officials said, after the heavy weight of snow last March caused the roof to cave in on the buildingand#8217;s west wing, which houses a transportation museum.

and#8220;The last big storm in March dropped over 10 feet of snow on the existing eight feet already on site,and#8221; said Ann Westling, Tahoe National Forest public affairs officer. and#8220;Even after extensive shoveling, the roof failed.and#8221;

The structure was first built in 1909, and in 1966 it was converted into the district ranger station before being transformed into a visitors center in the 1970s, Westling said.

and#8220;When the building was remodeled to expand its interpretive capacity in 2002, the visitor center became more vulnerable to the winter conditions and snow accumulation at Big Bend,and#8221; said Westling.

Westling said one seasonal position linked with the center may be potentially rehired next year, depending whether a suitable new structure can be found.

While Westling said she regrets the center must close, a silver lining exists in the form of a new fire station, expected to be constructed some time in the fall or early winter at the site.

An old fire station at the site was built in the 1930s and is too small for current fire equipment, Westling said. As a result, in 2009 the forest service applied for and recently received funds to build a new station.

The forest service, Westling said, looked at combining the fire station with the visitor center, but costs for bathrooms and a required commercial waste water treatment system and#8212; due to proximity to the South Yuba River and#8212; go past budgetary limits.

and#8220;This would be extremely costly,and#8221; she said.

According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, other options are being discussed for continued visitor services on the summit, Westling said. Reportedly as many as 450 visitors stop by the center each weekend.

Furthermore, Westling said the museumand#8217;s exhibits are intact and are temporarily in storage.

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