The Casper Mountain Trails Center (Courtesy VisitCasper)

CASPER, WYO— The Casper Mountain Trails Center, built by volunteer efforts in 2003, will be torn down due to structural issues that led the facility’s closure in May.

The Natrona County Commissioners heard the final assessment for repair costs at their September 1 work session and found them prohibitive. County parks director Mike Haigler, joined by Lower and Co. Engineers and architectural firm Stateline No 7, concurred with insurance investigators on the facility’s problems and final cost-to-fix: $64,000 for minor repairs and $240,000 for major repairs.

Haigler noted that repair efforts might unveil more problems and costs. The commissioners were in agreement that the better plan was to scrap the facility and start afresh. 

Haigler told Oil City news that a  14’-by-40’ modular cabin would be brought in to serve skiers and nordic trail users for the 2020-2021 winter season.

The loss of the facility comes at a particularly inopportune time, as the state high school cross-country skiing championships are slated to be held on Casper Mountain in February. Nevertheless Haigler was confident that the modular cabin, augmented by tents, would more than service the event: “We’ll make it happen,” he said.

Haigler and Natrona County Attorney Eric Nelson said they were confident a new facility could be built by the following winter.

Casper resident Tracy Lamont described the lodge as a “rallying point” for recreational groups, athletics programs, and trail users during the public comment section of the commissioners’ regular meeting on Tuesday.

The lodge’s amenities included a kitchen to serve chili, grilled cheese sandwiches and hot chocolate to skiiers and snowshoers using the more than 20 miles of groomed and single-track trails in the winter.

The county operates Casper Mountain facilities under leases from the City of Casper.

Hiagler said the lodge had been constructed through largely by volunteers, with help from a local construction company and county Road and Bridge resources. He said there hadn’t been extensive engineering or soil testing done at the time, and some additions had been created during the construction process.

“We learned some lessons,” Haigler said, adding that, for the new facility, “We’re going to do it right.” That means extensive engineering and soil sampling and a solid architectural design from the outset, he said.

Structural issues began to present in February as the walls showed signs of settling and were pulling back from the roof gables on the back side. The presence of an underground spring directly below the lodge is responsible for many of the problems, according to consulting engineer Bob Lower. Water was also persistent in a crawlspace beneath the kitchen area, and mold was a problem in general.

The lodge also did not have a “cold roof,” which Lower explained meant that there was no airspace between the roof and the interior ceiling. Without that space, heat from the structure consistently melted snow which refroze in heavy sheets and created consistent stress on the architecture.

That snow and ice, once separated from the roof, collected on the side of the building, and the wood structure absorbed and was further warped by that moisture, Lower said.

Lamont said it was a “godsend” that a roof collapse had not already occurred.

Demolition is the next step and is the charge of Haigler’s parks department. He told Oil City News he was confident the new facility would completed by the 2021-2022 winter season.

Lyle Murtha, the consulting architect, said he would be meeting with stakeholders including recreational groups and high school athletics departments to begin planning what a new facility would look like.

“They can come up with a much better design,” Haigler said, and added that he was sure the public would embrace the newly unveilied facility.

Lamot said at the meeting that he hoped the new facility would retain a “rustic and nostalgic design.”