Despite having no plans to reopen a shuttered visitor center at Mount St. Helens in Washington State, the U.S. Forest Service is spending more than $554,000 to replace its windows. One government official likened it to “keeping a vacant house in good repair,” while another official noted that there is hope to find some purpose for the building in the future, whether as a hotel, science camp or restaurant. Despite those efforts, there are no current plans to use the empty space.
Spending $11.5 million in 1993, the Forest Service opened the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center to provide visitors to Mount St. Helens a “sweeping view of the volcano” through the center’s soaring windows.5 In 2007, however, the Forest Service closed down the visitor center after just 14 years in operation. Former USDA official, Mark Rey, said at the time regarding Mount St. Helens, “we have more visitor center capacity than the public can reasonably use.”
Officials are hoping to maintain the facility so that another use can be found, such as a lodge or educational facility. But the Forest Service has been criticized in the past for poor facilities management, especially within the Mount St. Helens National Monument, and there is no sign that an economically viable use for the center is close to being found.