The Casper Mountain Trails Center will be torn down and replaced, Natrona County Commissioners decided at last week’s work session.
The building will be demolished at the end of September, interim Parks Director Mike Haigler said Wednesday. He said a new building will be finished by the 2021-22 season, but in the meantime the county has purchased a roughly 1,600 square-foot modular cabin to serve as a temporary venue.
The temporary structure will cost $65,000, and County Attorney Eric Nelson said it could be used elsewhere once the permanent replacement is finished.
The trails center was built in 2002, completing a goal of the Casper Nordic Club. At first, it wasn’t much more than a place to warm yourself and use the facilities, Haigler said. But then “it kind of grew into an expanded vision.”
At its peak, it became a venue for weddings, funerals and nonprofit business outings. Sitting at the base of Casper Mountain’s Nordic trail system and biathlon course, it’s become a year-round hub for athletes as well.
The building was a kit from Real Log Homes, paid for by private user groups with assistance from the city and county. The city also owns the land, with the county responsible for maintenance under a lease agreement.
The building began showing signs of deterioration this winter. The county inspected the building in May and deemed it unsafe for public access.
Two inspection reports of the building list a number of problems, including shrinking and cracking walls and a snow-damaged roof.
One inspection report painted a slightly more optimistic picture.
“If the cost of all of the above repairs is prohibitive at this time, the county could complete only the work on the crawlspace and on the two canopies to return the building to a condition that is safe to occupy. The remainder of the work could be spread out over the next few years,” inspector Robert Lower wrote in the report.
The second engineer had a less optimistic prognosis. A forensic engineering firm, UBSE, inspected the property and noted, “The Casper Mountain Trails Center facility exhibits notable distress due to deferred upkeep and improper maintenance of the log structures.”
It continued, “We believe the repair of the structure will be fairly straightforward; however, due to the nature of existing buildings, it is often difficult to determine the precise extent of the damage until all concealed spaces are exposed.”
Commissioner Brook Kaufman said given the number of repairs, a replacement would have been inevitable and the board didn’t want to put it off.
Minor repairs for the building would cost just under $65,000, and that’s what insurance would cover. But the substantive repairs, Nelson said, would cost an additional $240,000 not covered by insurance.
Nelson said the county plans to take stakeholder input before deciding on the replacement. The board does not yet have a budget for the replacement, nor has it decided where the money will come from. The county has remained somewhat insulated from the brunt of COVID-19’s financial impacts, passing a budget with a $3 million surplus in July.
Follow local government reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @morganhwrites
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