The following article appeared in the Lethbridge Herald on Thursday, January 6th, 2011. It was written by Delon Shurtz, a Lethbridge Herald reporter.
Thursday, 06 January 2011. Shurtz, Delon. The Lethbridge Herald
It's been nearly two years since a fire destroyed the Kilmorey Lodge in Waterton Lakes townsite, and despite plans to rebuild, the site remains vacant, offering visitors little more than a place to park their vehicles.
"We are still planning to rebuild," promises Lockey Craig, president of Waymarker Hospitality, which owns the Kilmorey and other businesses in the park. "I'm confident that it will be rebuilt."
Craig had hoped to start rebuilding in 2009 so the new lodge would be open for the 2010 season. But plans have been bogged down in red tape with Parks Canada that insists accommodations must provide on-site housing for staff. The original Kilmorey didn't have on-site housing, beyond a room for the night auditor, and Craig says housing could be provided elsewhere.
"There are sites available for staff housing in Waterton."
Because negotiations with Parks Canada have not panned out, Craig hopes discussions with the federal government and Lethbridge MP Rick Casson are more successful. Craig says it may be more effective to change legislation regarding housing, than try to work around it.
Craig hopes the project is approved before April so work can begin this year and be completed for the 2012 season. If approval doesn't come before April, the lodge won't be finished until 2013.
The Kilmorey Lodge, one of the first private businesses visitors saw when they entered the village, was burned to a pile of rubble and ash Jan. 20, 2009. Investigators determined the blaze, which caused $3 million in damage and left only the stone fireplace standing, was caused by spontaneous combustion of laundry.
The early morning fire forced four guests to flee, but no one was injured.
Park superintendent Rod Blair was awakened by park staff about 4 a.m. and rushed to the site, on the southwest shore of Emerald Bay just at the entrance to the small community. By then only half the lodge remained standing. The four guests were all safely evacuated, but while two of them moved across the street to Crandell Mountain Lodge, the other two left town.
High winds common in the mountain community hampered efforts of firefighters from Cardston, the County of Cardston and Pincher Creek, yet they managed to protect other buildings in the area.
By noon many of the trees along the lakeshore were still burning. While firefighters fought the blaze, which at times reached 40 feet above the roof line, parks staff were fighting their own war to prevent wind-borne sparks from landing on the hill below the Prince of Wales Hotel.
The fire was the second for the iconic structure; the first was nearly 80 years ago in 1933. The lodge, built on the same site in 1926, was the second rooming house in the village. It had been expanded before it burned down, rebuilt in 1935, then expanded again in 1939.
Shortly after the 2009 fire, Waymarker revealed plans for a new lodge, and although not an exact replica, an artist's rendering shows a strong resemblance to the original 23-room Kilmorey Lodge. Craig is also proposing an extra floor which would increase accommodations to 33 rooms, but he's still waiting to hear if it will be approved.