MAINTENANCE ACTIVITIES IN CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK: 1916-PRESENT
During the early years of National Park Service administration, maintenance activities at Crater Lake National Park were performed by seasonal crews under the direct supervision of the park superintendent. Many of the laborers were young men who worked in the park during their summer school vacations. Local sawmills provided stiff competition, however, by paying higher wages. Thus it was often difficult for Superintendent Sparrow to find plentiful labor. Nevertheless he reported in 1922 that he hired "a crew of from 30 to 40 men" for "general maintenance and construction work" between July 1 and September 30. During the summer of 1923 about 50 men were employed for similar purposes. 
A report prepared by Sparrow in August 1920 provides a glimpse into the nature and extent of maintenance activities in the park during the early years. Some 49 miles of park roads were repaired and regraded during fiscal year 1920 at a cost of $4,862.97 or $99.24 per mile. The cost of administration for the road maintenance was $190.37 or 3.91 percent of the total. The roads to Crater Lake Lodge were cleared of snow by June 26, and the Rim Road around the lake was cleared of snow on August 2, the latter being accomplished with "a liberal use of T.N.T. to remove deep drifts." The snow removal efforts were aided by personnel of the park concessionaire.
Twenty-three miles of trail were cleared and repaired, the most costly being the 1.2-mile stretch from the rim to the boat landing where many slides occurred every spring. The trails were maintained and repaired at a cost of $694.48 or $30.20 per mile. The cost of administration of the trail work was $11.12 or 1.6 percent of the total. The trails maintained were Watchman, Garfield, Wizard Island, Rim to Lake, Copeland Creek, Dewie, Anna Spring to Rim, and Union Peak.
Building maintenance during fiscal year 1920 was carried out at a cost of $719.62. The superintendent's residence at Anna Spring and the ranger's cottage at the south entrance were repaired and painted. The log rangers' cabins at the east and west entrances were varnished, and the roofs of all buildings, including those at Government Camp, were painted.
Fifty-four miles of telephone line, thirty-four of which was of temporary construction, was repaired and kept in operation during the working season. Eight miles were maintained all year. Total cost of telephone line maintenance was $373.87 or $6.92 per mile.
Seven free campgrounds were maintained at a cost of $383. The campgrounds were located at the Rim, Anna Spring, Cold Spring, White Horse, Lost Creek, Wheeler Creek, and Munson's Meadow. 
In his annual report for 1922 Sparrow devoted considerable attention to maintenance operations in the park. His discussion included sections on roads, trails, telephone system, buildings, and miscellaneous maintenance and improvements:
Various Park Service reports during the early 1920s indicate that park maintenance efforts consisted primarily of varied improvement projects. In 1923, for instance, Superintendent Thomson reported that "a large amount of miscellaneous work was accomplished." The list of varied projects included:
In addition all permanent buildings at Anna Spring were painted "tobacco brown with dark green roofs," and several dilapidated structures were razed and the material salvaged. 
The following year Superintendent Thomson reported that "major effort has been directed toward road maintenance, but a considerable amount of miscellaneous work has also been accomplished." This work included
In 1925 Superintendent Thomson observed that "as usual, endeavor necessarily was concentrated upon road maintenance, sanitation, and all those other problems incidental to the safety and comfort of tens of thousands of visitors." Beyond that "a considerable miscellany of alteration and repair was accomplished," including
More than twenty percent of the park road funds were devoted to snow removal, and heavy spring slides necessitated an unusual amount of work on the trail to the lake, practically exhausting the entire park's trail allotment. 
Snow removal, especially during years of heavy snowfall, was a major undertaking of park maintenance crews. For instance, the winter of 1926-27 witnessed a total snowfall of more than 51 feet, the snow being heavily compacted by spring thaws. This amount of snow was difficult to remove, since there was no mechanical snow removal equipment available. To permit visitors to enter the park it was necessary to clear more than fifteen miles of heavy snow by using explosives and shovels. This gargantuan feat was finally completed on July 2, thus causing the park's 1927 summer season to commence five weeks later than the year before. 
By 1929 park maintenance operations had been assigned to various departments, including engineering, landscape, sanitation, electrical, and mechanical. This division of responsibilities for maintenance would continue into the 1940s. The engineering department was in charge of Engineer Ward P. Webber who was connected with the field headquarters office in San Francisco and loaned to the park during the travel season. The division had charge of road and trail maintenance and improvements, snow removal, and building upkeep. Concerning these responsibilities and related problems, Superintendent Solinsky observed:
As to building maintenance Solinsky noted that the interiors of the new employees' residences at Government Camp were painted.
In 1929 the sum of $1,500 was allotted to the park for roadside cleanup and landscape improvement. The work was confined to one mile along the Anna Spring-Government Camp road. Debris and trash, resulting from road and trail construction, were cleaned up in the rim area, and planting was done to eliminate the dust.
The sanitary department was handled by a crew of four men with the use of a light truck. The campgrounds were kept clean, and garbage and refuse from the camps and concessioner facilities were disposed of on a daily basis.
The park electrical department kept the telephone system in repair, and the mechanical department under the direction of a master mechanic (with the aid of several seasonals) had charge of the overhaul and repair of park vehicles and equipment. While the vehicles and equipment had been overhauled during the fall and winter, the park vehicles were a continuing source of trouble and expense. With the exception of two trucks, all of the park vehicles "came from war surplus stock" and had "long since outlived their usefulness." 
Road maintenance and snow removal operations in the park were facilitated by the acquisition of new equipment in 1930. According to Superintendent Solinsky marked improvement was made in the condition of Rim Road and the north and east entrance roads with the "new road equipment and funds that allowed extensive work in grading and smoothing up the road surfaces." Because of the heavy increase in travel, considerable maintenance was necessary on the oiled roads. Several sections, ranging in length from 1/2 to 1-1/2 miles, had to be torn up, reprocessed, and relaid. The type of pavement used on these roads was such, according to Solinsky, that "with the increasing use each year the annual maintenance costs will increase until such time as a more permanent pavement can be laid."
In 1930 snow removal from roads was aided by the acquisition of a new "mechanical snow remover"--a Bates 80 tractor with rotary snow plow and Hall backfiller attached. With its use the road to the rim from both the south and west entrances was open to traffic on May 24, the earliest opening date in the history of the park. The north entrance and Rim roads were open to travel on June 26, the earliest that either road had been opened.
Solinsky noted that considerable expense was necessary in opening and clearing the slides from the Crater Wall Trail. The trail was "so located with the number of switchbacks on the loose sliding sides of the crater wall that it necessitates handling of the slide material several times before it can be disposed of." This in turn made the "annual maintenance costs exceedingly high and out of proportion to its original cost."
Roadside cleanup continued to be a major concern of park maintenance in 1930. Using an allotment of $4,000 some five miles were cleared of debris and trash. 
In May 1931 Superintendent Solinsky reported on the park snow removal operations to NPS Director Horace Albright. He observed that the park's snow plan
Snow plow operations had started on November 15, and two operators were employed at a salary of $100 per month each plus board.
Solinsky went on to describe the advantages of snow removal operations and its impact on park operations and visitation. Among other things he noted:
Itemized report of weather conditions and cost of snow plow operation for Crater Lake winter 1930-31:
Snogo Model 58 rotary snow plow used in this operation.
Snow plow operations stated November 15th.
Operators paid at rate of $100.00 per month and board.
Snow measurements shown taken at Government Camp. Approximately 50% more snow removed from road than precipitation shows on account of drifting in road cut.
Average depth at Rim April 1 - 10 feet, drifts up to 17 feet deep between Government Camp and Rim were kept open.
The winter of 1931-32 taxed the park's snow removal capabilities to the limit. All known records of snowfall in the park were broken as 65 feet of snow fell at Government Camp and between 85-90 feet fell at the rim. Despite the heavy snowfall the park was able to keep "the upper sections of the park roads, from the Rim to points below Annie Springs towards both the west and south entrances, open all winter" with one rotary snow plow. It required two crews of two men each working almost constantly during the months of December and January to remove the snow from the upper park roads During those months the plow was operated continuously for 117 eight-hour shifts, an average of approximately sixteen hours per day. The south entrance road was open to the public on April 10, and the west entrance road on May 5. The delay in opening the west entrance road was caused by the refusal of the State Highway Commission to open its section of the highway from Union Creek to the west park boundary, and "considerable persuasion" by the Medford Chamber of Commerce and local residents was necessary to get the commission to take action. Heavy snow drifts delayed the opening of Rim Road until July 26.
Road and trail maintenance continued to pose problems for park management in 1932. Lack of funds for proper road maintenance resulted, according to Superintendent Solinsky, in "rather unfavorable comments from park visitors, due to the rough and cut-up condition of these highways." As all of the park highways were of "the light oil mixed type," they required "constant attention under heavy traffic to keep them in travelable condition." According to Solinsky, "a vast amount of work" was required if these highways were "to be maintained in as good condition as the state highways leading to our park entrances. " Of primary importance in this work was the necessity for widening the shoulders to support the pavement, resloping of the cut banks, and rounding of the slopes.
Because of the heavy snows during the winter the Crater Wall Trail was not opened until July 1. After the snow banks had melted, slides continued to fall on the trail, in some places almost obliterating it. The cost of maintaining the trail was extremely heavy with large cracks appearing in its path after the snow melted, thus leading to concern that sections of it could be lost.
In 1932 roadside cleanup was carried out along the south entrance road from Annie Spring to the south park boundary. This completed all the roadside cleanup work along the completed park highways with the exception of approximately two miles on the west entrance road." 
By 1934 road maintenance had become a critical problem for park operations. Lack of adequate maintenance of hard surface roads, coupled with the heavy visitation of the previous several years, had caused the roads to become potentially dangerous. During the year funds became available to purchase a road patching machine and commence repairs "which consisted mainly of patching the more dangerous chuck holes that had developed in profusion." 
Low appropriations and staffing levels prevented the park from instituting a comprehensive building maintenance program for many years. Following the visit of Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes in 1934, however, a major program was authorized for rehabilitation and completion of existing park structures. In January 1935 a survey was made of nearly 60 park buildings [a copy of the survey may be seen below] Superintendent of Construction E.E. Etherton, analyzing "how the Government can complete, repair, and improve its property to the condition in which such property should be, to safeguard its investment, and also to prevent the buildings from falling further into disrepair or obsolescence." The general conclusions of Etherton as to the condition of park structures were appalling and led to calls for greater appropriations for building maintenance and the correction of these problems. Etherton described in rather stark terms the dilapidation of park structures. He observed that the
INVENTORY OF PARK STRUCTURES: 1935
Because of inadequate appropriations snow removal operations were not attempted during the winter of 1934-35, resulting in the park opening five weeks later than during the previous several years. In April snow removal commenced at which time a rotary Snogo and two bulldozers were used to clear the heavily-packed snow (13 feet at Park Headquarters). Visitors made their first trip over a two-way road to the lake rim on June 1. Once the snow was removed major road patching on the south and west entrance roads was undertaken. 
Crater Lake was kept open on a year-round basis for the first time in 1935-36. The acquisition of an additional high-powered rotary snow plow facilitated the task of maintaining open roads in the face of heavy winter storms, leaving a total snowfall of nearly fifty feet. Bulldozers were used to cut through the frozen drifts on Rim Road. Cooperation from the Oregon State Highway Commission for snow removal on approach roads was an important factor in the winter accessibility of the park. 
In 1937 Superintendent Canfield reported on the merits of snow removal and its relation to winter accessibility of the park. Among his observations were:
World War II had a significant impact on park operations and maintenance activities. In 1942 the park turned over to the armed forces on a loan basis its fleet of trucks and snow removal equipment. The loan consisted of nine pickup and dump trucks, one Snogo 1929 model, one Snogo 1936 model, and one Rotoblade snow removal machine. The loan of this machinery, together with reductions in park personnel, appropriations, and visitation, resulted in closure of the park in November 1942. The park would be open on a summer basis only until year-round operations were resumed in 1946. 
The reduction of park personnel during the war resulted in the decimation of experienced maintenance crews. Hence the chief ranger and the park naturalist undertook the major responsibility for road and trail repairs and other essential summer maintenance work. They furnished crews or individual employees to assist the park carpenter, plumber, road foreman, and engineer in their various duties. This cooperation by the more experienced and trained park personnel was important to the ongoing maintenance operations of the park during the war. According to Superintendent Leavitt, "the only unskilled labor we were able to procure was a few young boys just old enough to qualify under the age regulations, and a few old men." 
One of the problems that resulted from the winter closure of the park during the war was increased road and building damage occasioned by heavy snow. The park was manned by skeleton winter crews, and snow was not removed from roads or buildings. Thus, the condition of park roads, buildings, and facilities deteriorated as the war continued. Damage to park buildings became a problem of particular concern to Crater Lake administrators, evidence of which may be found in a memorandum prepared by Leavitt for NPS Director Drury on July 21, 1943:
When the park reopened on a year-round basis in July 1946 prewar maintenance activities and standards were gradually reestablished as funding and personnel permitted. The most immediate maintenance needs were addressed during the summer of 1946. The trail to the lake was opened to the public on August 4. The maintenance crews encountered many difficulties in opening the trail, including heavy snow drifts, rock slides, and washouts. The major roads in the park were patched with crushed rock and oil, the crushed rock being obtained from the summit of Dutton Ridge. By late summer the roads, according to Leavitt, were in "fairly good condition" with the exception of the west and south entrance roads where the outer edge of the pavement was "continually breaking because of lack of metal underneath the paving."
Snow-related maintenance activities continued to comprise a large portion of park operations during the postwar years. The months of October and November 1946 witnessed extreme cold and heavy snowfall. The early winter weather conditions resulted in a variety of maintenance, snow removal repair activities as reported by Superintendent Leavitt:
During the postwar years maintenance standards, personnel, and park appropriations were gradually restored to their prewar levels. Because little maintenance or repair had been accomplished during the war, the condition of park roads, buildings, and facilities were greatly in need of rehabilitation during the postwar period while funding and personnel levels were slowly increasing. Thus park management was confronted with a backlog of maintenance and repair needs that it could not meet for several years. In July 1948, for instance, Superintendent Leavitt reported:
Snow removal continued to be a major expenditure of the park's operating budget during the early 1950s. In 1952 NPS Director Conrad L. Wirth pointed out that snow removal placed "abnormal demands for maintenance and abnormal maintenance costs" on the park's operating budget. He observed, "about $400,000, or 10 percent of maintenance funds, is spent annually to remove snow, with no permanent benefit to road conditions. Less than 4 percent is spent for professional services." 
As park management rebuilt its staff and organizational structure in the postwar years maintenance operations were placed under the engineering division for administrative purposes. An organization chart prepared in June 1955 indicated that maintenance activities were assigned to the engineering division headed by Park Engineer William N. Loftis, Jr. The functions of the division were:
The division had five sections under various chiefs: communications and power (electrician); roads and trails (mixed gang foreman); garage and shop (mechanic); water-sewage-sanitation (plumber); and carpentry-painting. 
By 1962 park maintenance activities had been assigned to a "maintenance and operation of physical facilities" division. The new division was headed by the park engineer and had three sections each directed by a foreman: buildings and utilities, roads and trails, and garage and shop. 
By the 1970s a maintenance division had been established in the park organizational structure. The division was headed by a maintenance general foreman. The three primary foci of the division's activities were buildings, grounds, and roads and trails. Building maintenance included a wide range of efforts from minor repairs, routine painting, and refinishing of floors to major structural rehabilitation and improvements to electrical, sewer, and heating systems. Grounds maintenance included campground and roadside cleanup, tree planting and rim area landscaping. Roads and trails maintenance included snow removal, resurfacing, repairs, and clearing of debris and rocks. Park maintenance crews were aided by Youth Conservation Corps personnel in road, trail, and building rehabilitation and campground clean up. 
During recent years the Crater Lake staff has sought to professionalize its maintenance operations. Such efforts have been made to bring park maintenance programs into compliance with the servicewide initiative for maintenance management systems.
Last Updated: 13-Aug-2010